Eleven years ago, the New York Voices hinted at the dynamism of a pairing with Bob Mintzer when they invited the bandleader/clarinetist to add a haunting solo to “Darn That Dream” on A Day Like This. Now that union reaches full bloom, the Voices blending sublimely with Mintzer’s 17-piece ensemble. It’s not their first outing with a big band; the foursome shaped the sizzling Sing! Sing! Sing! in 2001 and recorded live with the WDR Big Band a half-decade ago. It is, however, their most alluring (and also the first on which they focus solely on standards), as polished and sophisticated as the Pied Pipers’ sessions with Tommy Dorsey but consistently hipper and more imaginatively crafted.
The band arrangements, all but two by Mintzer, are sharp and sage; so, too, Darmon Meader’s clever, simpatico vocal arrangements. Augmenting their glorious harmonies, the Voices swap turns out front, including a gorgeously fragile, Peter Eldridge-led “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” Eldridge and Kim Nazarian on a lustrous “The Way You Look Tonight,” Nazarian and Lauren Kinhan steering a perfectly chilled, twilit “Autumn Leaves,” Kinhan the cornerstone of a fervent “Old Devil Moon,” and from Meader, a sparkling “You Go to My Head” and unusually (but winningly) buoyant “I’ll Remember April.” Mintzer reserves two tracks for just the band, a richly hued “I Want to Be Happy” showcasing trumpeter Scott Wendholt and his own, playful “Weird Blues.” CHRISTOPHER LOUDONOriginally Published