|George Gee & the Jump, Jivin' Wailers Swing Orchestra - If Dreams Come True|
|Written by Frankie Hagan|
It's a great thing to know that one's life work is the realization of a personal dream. The art that men produce can provide stunning visuals for the canvas of their lives. Even as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, George Gee had a dream of leading his own big band in the tradition of his musical hero Count Basie. With his original Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra, George set out to make that dream an inspired reality. After great performance and recording success, George Gee's latest album If Dreams Come True, is the further evolution of that clear, uncompromising vision.
The opening selection is the perennial dance favorite "All the Cats join In," and it encapsulates the warm tones and exuberance for the swing genre that George is known for as an ambassador of swing (as well as the sunny and clever arrangement work of Walt Szymanski). The rich, energy of the track is toe-tapping delight, and dancers will enjoy the energy. "Gin for X-mas" is a Lionel Hampton classic dusted off for an uptempo romp in fast-paced brass ensemble work, with great piano bits, and lovely solos from the band that has been given the title of "the Jump, Jivin' Wailers Swing Orchestra" for this particular album.
"Shorty George" is an excellent fast paced Count Basie standard, named after the famous lindy hopper credited for giving the name to the dance, and is performed by the band with a tight, sharp control that allows George Gee's reverence for the source material, and Basie in particular to shine. "Sent For You Yesterday," also aims to please with exultant rhythm and buttery John Dokes vocals. For the Charleston enthusiast who likes to hear a bit more Dixie in their big band, Puttin' on the Ritz" and "Victory Stride" definitely evoke more of a 20's and early 30's feel to the instrumentation, and provide warm interpretations. Walt Szymanski provides vocals to "Lulu's Back in Town," and give the big band sound a push in the direction of jump blues. "It had to Be You," providing a vehicle for Carla Crook's vocals, is pure blues, and slow dance excellence. The instrumentation is light and the piano threads the needle between the horns. Wiseman's trumpet work here is really velvety.
The big band standards are largely uptempo and imminently dance worthy, with great tunes like "Topsy" and "You Can Depend on Me" filling a room with sound and feet with energy. The title track "If Dreams Come True," is a wistful stroll in the park with the big band, an invitation to share their dream of an entire world that swings, and an invitation to a collection of songs that does just that, and then some.
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Frankie Hagan is a certified professional dance instructor and a member of the NDTA (National Dance Teacher's Association), and the World Swing Dance Council. His articles and reviews have appeared in swing-dance publications for several years. Learn more about Frankie at his website: www.dancefrankie.com