Rachael MacFarlane is best known because of her famous last name (her brother is Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane) and various voiceover roles; few have been aware of her singing chops, at least until now.
On “Hayley Sings” (Concord), she runs through a series of jazz standards backed by a big band, including “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Someone To Watch Over Me,” which she nails with the expertise of a weathered torch singer. Read the rest of this entry »
Master percussionist, maestro and drummer Bobby Sanabria might come from a classic Latin jazz background (he played with both Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente and was a featured musician on the soundtrack for the 1992 film “Mambo Kings”), but that doesn’t stop him from innovating within the format. A clear example of this is “Multiverse,” which takes the music into unexpected directions starting from a very interesting take on Don Ellis’ “The French Connection,” which was the main theme for the Gene Hackman movie of the same name. Read the rest of this entry »
A half a century ago, Johnny Crawford was a teenage idol charting Top Ten hits such as “Cindy’s Birthday” and “Rumors” and playing Chuck Connors’ son on the popular western ABC television series, “The Rifleman,” which remains a daily dinnertime staple of Chicago-based MeTV. Crawford also sang on the show (and as an original Mouseketeer before that) and recorded five albums.
Still, none of that prepared me for the shock that I had upon first hearing his new album, “Sweepin’ the Clouds Away.” A vintage recreation of authentic dance band arrangements from the 1920s and 1930s, “Sweepin’ the Clouds Away” is a collection of live tracks of the Los Angeles-based Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, an eleven-piece collective formed in 1990 following Crawford’s stint as the vocalist of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks Orchestra. With Crawford as leader/vocalist, the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra painstakingly seeks to perform music of that elegant bygone era, paying careful attention to the performance practices of the time. A fixture at Hollywood celebrity parties and entertainment industry functions, this is the group’s first album. Read the rest of this entry »
As the Big Band era waned, record companies were ever on the lookout for publicity stunts that would grab public attention, and 1961’s pairing of the Kansas City sound of the Count Basie Orchestra and the New York sound of the Duke Ellington Big Band on “First Time! The Count Meets the Duke” (Columbia) would be the equivalent of having a jam session between say, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the early 1980s, had that been possible. In the Big Band era, Ellington was The Beatles, to be sure, but in a new millennium when both the Count and the Duke have long departed but when there is still a Basie Orchestra that has been playing the Count’s own charts for decades, this pairing of that group’s actual descendents and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra temporarily taking the A Train, as it were, and playing Ellington covers, is hardly a fair “Battle of the Big Bands,” as this is being billed, but the result will be a rare chance to hear a bunch of classic charts of the era played by top-notch live acts. Read the rest of this entry »