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Harry Goldson Big Band: Swing Swing Swing

On this follow-up to last year’s Harry Goldson Plays the Big Band Sessions, an impressive entry by the then 68-year-old former investment banker turned professional clarinetist, Goldson offers an even more ambitious foray into the world of swing era pop music. The emphasis here, however, is placed less on swing, per se, as it is on flawlessly played dance music. In short, what was considered the height of classiness in the 1940s-a melodic solo horn backed by tasteful brass and reed punctuations and underscored by lush, swooping string section caresses-here substitutes for the raw, uninhibited drive that gave the swing era its name in the first place. It’s not that Goldson doesn’t know the difference between what Benny, Duke, and Count were doing, and what Dorsey, Shaw, and James were about when they started featuring strings. It’s just that he seems to be aiming at a more conservative audience.

To his credit, though, Goldson acquired the services of perhaps the largest cast of L.A. studiomen ever to be used on a self-produced recording, among them, as featured soloists, saxmen Terry Harrington, Lanny Morgan, Rusty Higgins, and Pat Longo, trumpeters Ron Barrows, George Graham, and Wayne Bergeron, trombonist Les Benedict, pianist Brian O’Rourke, vibist Dave Johnson, drummer Frank Capp, and vocalist Jeanne Pisano. Among the 15 standards arranged by Gordon Brisker, Lon Norman, and Gary Urwin are “Little Street in Singapore,” “Ridin’ High,” “I Thought About You, and “Angel Eyes,” all making for a very pleasant and tuneful listen, but watch out for those swarms of violins, violas, and cellos.

Originally Published