Art Lillard’s Heavenly Big Band

By: Pistano Seeber

art-web-cdIt isn’t often when the drummer is the bandleader, but such is the case for Art Lillard who’s second offering with the Heavenly Big Band sports guest vocalists Mary Foster Conklin, Dominque Eade, Hilary Gardner, Pete McGuinness and Andrea Wolper.

Vocalist Pete McGuiness who currently has two nominations for a Grammy this year; Best Arrangement-Instruments and Vocals (What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?) and Best Arrangement-Instrumental or A Capella (Beautiful Dreamer), emits a presence of command with “Evidence/Just You, Just Me,” his voice has a buoyancy and McGuiness scats with precision and eloquence. Vocalist Hilary Gardner exhibits an engaging take on “Heavenly” with an easy going bossa nova that Gardner wraps with her temptress voice.

Vocalist Andrea Wolper put her stamp on “Happy Blues,” making the tune pure delight. Dan Walsh takes and inspired soprano solo, while trumpeter Walt Szymanksi equally rises to the occasion. A Latin-inspired take makes this cut especially exciting.

A long moonlight entrance on “Just Friends” fans the embers before trombonist Jack Davis puts his sizzle on the solo and the seductive lyrical topping of Andrea Wolper taking a chorus out gives the entire storyline its final meaning.

“You Bluesed Me” gives the listener a chance to embrace Mary Foster Conklin’s bluesy and evocative vocal lines, for a textural change and Itai Kriss serves up energetic angular lines with strong accents on flute.

Dominique Eade give the listener a foot tapping version of “Pennies From Heaven,” with scatting reminiscent of Sarah Vaughn, her peaks and valley of range, give a full-tilt rendition. The track moves along with bounce and panache. Trumpeter, Barry Bryson has a bright sound that gives the track lilt and shine, and trombonist Stafford Hunter’s sound is round and warm.

Certain Relationships offers and equality of vocal and instrumental delight, with 9 outstanding vocal cuts the unification of vocal and instrumental cuts alike make this a delightful offering. Each vocalist is not like the other, adding up to a hugely successful approach for vocal fans, as the recording truly has something for everyone, whether it be instrumental, male or female vocals, Certain Relationships is a win.

Tracklisting: Evidence/Just You Just me; Carolina Shout; Heavenly; Happy Blues; Just Friends,; You Bluesed Me; Swing Trane; Girl from Ipanema; God Bless the Child; Eleanor’s Place; Brusheeze; Let’s Get Lost; Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; Boogie Woogie Stomp; Pennies from Heaven.

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