George Gee Swing Orchestra – Swing Makes You Happy!
(Rondette Jazz RJ1009CD CD Review by Peter Vacher)
Chinese-American bandleader George Gee’s orchestra has been a New York fixture for years, with a settled personnel and a steady Tuesday night gig at the Swing 46 club on W.46th Street. It’s a nonet, but one with a meaty presence, MD and trombonist David Gibson having created the kind of well-filled charts that give it the feel of a small big band. With a pair of trumpets, a single trombone, three saxes and three rhythm to work on, his writing has the kind of tight, punchy call and response patterns that the late-era Basie band deployed. All nineteen tracks were arranged by Gibson whose mellow, JJ Johnson style attack also registers in a number of pleasing solos.
The band carries two vocalists, Hilary Gardner emerging with great credit on Ronnell Bright’s ‘Sweet Pumpkin’ and ‘No Moon at All’, this via a brassy chart in which the trumpet pair pick off some succulent high notes. John Doakes fulfils the surrogate Joe Williams role, sounding exultant on I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water’and the more routine Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.
Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix is the pick of the soloists, a trumpeter who turns up in any number of modernist situations around the Big Apple but who knows what’s appropriate in this band. Pianist Steve Einerson is worth hearing, too while altoist Ed Pazant, known as a long-time sideman with Lionel Hampton and latterly for his playing with Latin bands, has the lion’s share of the saxophone solos, his rather strained preachy tone less pleasing than some.
The band lives up to its title, swinging hard, largely thanks to drummer Willard Dyson, the danceable tempos of Lindyhopper’s Delight by Eddie Barefield, and Larry Clinton’s Midnight In A Madhouse, reminiscent of the Panama Francis Savoy Sultans. Overall, there’s a lot here to enjoy, the playing disciplined yet full of zest: certainly worth seeking out if you’re a swing fan. Better still, make for New York and catch them live!