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George Gee Swing Orchestra: Swing Makes You Happy!

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“Swing music is a living, growing, and evolving art form,” says bandleader George Gee in his liner notes for Swing Makes You Happy!, featuring his 11-piece Swing Orchestra. He could hardly have produced a better example of that sentiment: This album is convivial-true to its title-and feels remarkably, almost startlingly hip, without sacrificing its lineage to the Count Basie New Testament Band.

Much of the credit for that achievement goes to David Gibson, the band’s trombonist, musical director and composer-arranger. The tunes have the memorable hooks and lively rhythms that made hits out of golden-age swing records, but they also experiment with novel techniques. Gibson’s “Bedrock,” for example, phrases the melody by doubling alto saxophonist Ed Pazant with baritone player Anthony Lustig. And a version of Herbie Hancock’s “A Tribute to Someone,” a feature for trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, has been retrofitted with a ballroom treatment.

The individual musicians, too, share some responsibility for the project’s success. Pazant’s solo on “Bedrock” pegs him as a missing melodic link between Benny Carter and Charlie Parker; Hendrix, with his pugilistic tone and growl, makes mincemeat out of every measure he touches, especially on Gibson’s “Comin’ Home.” Drummer Willard Dyson’s bold, jump-bluesy snare accents breathe life into “The Road to Roscoe’s,” just as his rimshots do on “Blue Minor.”

Ultimately, though, it’s Gee and the astonishing aplomb with which he imbues all he surveys that makes it impossible not to buy what he’s selling. That this band can in 2015 make a song called “Lindyhopper’s Delight” sound both fresh and urgent tells you all you need to know.

Originally Published