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Got Swing!
Erich Kunzel And
The Cincinnati Pops Cut A Rug
Special Guests Manhattan Transfer, John Pizzarelli And Janis Siegel

Review by Karl Lozier
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Got Swing! Erich Kunzel & The Cincinnati Pops Cut A Rug

CD Number: Telarc CD-80592


  This CD's title is very apt; it is a celebration of the big band era. The varied approaches and tempos with vocals and instrumentals combine swing with ballads as created by a half dozen arrangers. Variety is the key to this extremely successful recording and leading the way is Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. Here they are swinging like never before.

The Manhattan Transfer is still going strong after thirty years together. Remember that they are the first pop group to win Grammy Awards for both pop and jazz in the same year! They are still cool after all these years. John Pizzarelli continues his climb to stardom topping off his excellent guitar playing by singing classic standards and cool ballads. The final link in this variety pack of swinging music is the addition of Janis Siegel. In addition to working with The Manhattan Transfer, many years ago she started a solo career and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Jazz Vocal in 1987. Now you know the cast. Next comes their varied performances on this outstanding CD.

The album starts off with the famous and instantly recognizable "String of Pearls". Songs such as it and the following "Stompin' at the Savoy" are typical of the music that made big band "swing" famous. I particularly enjoyed the mellow clarinet solo on Stompin' as that was the instrument that demonstrated personally to me that I was destined to be a listener and not a performer.

John Pizzarelli is featured on "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "Avalon". His cool and mellow style with ballads and cool jazz songs is contagious and his fame is definitely spreading nowadays. The Manhattan Transfer, seemingly around forever, are actually celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this year and have a recent recording exploring Louis Armstrong's music. Here they are, as usual, a real professional class act group. Listen particularly closely on their rendition of "Skyliner" for their beautifully intricate harmonizing - it simply does not get better than that. On three of the selections The Manhattan Transfer's rhythm section is very ably featured. One of their selections is "Clouds", adapted from Nuages. Classical fans should listen closely to see how Claude Debussy's well-known Nuages has evolved with some vocals thrown in for good measure. Janis Siegel's singular contribution to this varied and outstanding release is an almost hauntingly beautiful rendition of I'll be seeing you. It is the next to last selection. Lean back, take a couple of deep breaths and really relax as you give her your undivided attention. It is simply subtly outstanding. It is followed by a worthy, really swinging, climactic "Sweet Georgia Brown"!

This recording really has it all. The recording is up to Telarc's usual high standard with Michael Bishop and his staff handling the technical end of it all. Though their usual DSD (Direct Stream Digital) system is used, my review copy is a regular CD and not a hybrid SACD version. There were no obvious audible distractions to mar my or your listening pleasure. For the most part it really has that "swing" that big band lovers go for. Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops are where the action is and where it will remain for some time. For the most part they have no continuing competition - they now reign supreme.

To those listeners that still miss the justly famous Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops I say, "I understand". Fiedler seemed to have a little something extra, perhaps an innate sense of rhythm or swing that just came naturally. He is gone. He is missed. His recordings will be treasured forever. We must move forward. We shall await the next Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops recording eagerly. If the legendary Boston maestro had done this recording we undoubtedly would have had either The Manhattan Transfer or John Pizzarelli or Janis Siegel joining him - but not all three. There would have been one arranger and a real consistency or sameness to the approach of the album's selections and a rich warmth to the LP's sound (remember that LP's were the medium during the zenith of his career). By flipping the recording over we got about forty minutes of music. As with the reviewed recording, now we get fine performances with three featured contemporary performers, six arrangers, a great variety of interpretations and over an hour's music without having to turn the recording over. The times are not changing - the times have changed.












































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