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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


George Gee
and His Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra
Swingin' Live!

Live recordings generally do not interest me. The sound quality is inevitably poorer than a studio mix, and one always has the feeling of having missed something. Listening to a live album is like watching a party through a window, participating vicariously.

George Gee's Swingin' Live! is the exception. Even recorded directly off the soundboard at Irving Plaza in New York City, the 15-piece band sounds impeccable. And, Gee's band leading and gleeful shouts of encouragement at the close of almost every number give the album a spark that many live recordings lack. Instead of feeling left out, you will find yourself swept up in the exuberance of the music and the audience response.

The night starts off with a bang as the listener is invited to "Come On In" and join the fun. Gee acts as emcee to the festivities as he introduces the Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra and the second number, "Blues For Stephanie." With command performances by Cleave Guyton (alto sax), John Cowherd (piano), and Kenny Rampton and Walt Szymanski (trumpets), Gee raises the bar for today's American Popular Standards.

Things really get hoppin' by the fourth track, as vocal diva Carla Cook turns up the heat with her spicy rendition of "Let the Good Times Roll." She keeps the room simmering with "Here's That Rainy Day." The night ends with "Splanky," my favorite song on the album. It has a mellow groove that polishes off the CD neatly.

A note: If you're used to the hard-hitting, fast-paced sounds of bands like Cherry Poppin' Daddies, you might not appreciate the cool groove of the Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra. Apples and oranges, you know. But if you have a taste for classic big band—or if you're a diehard dancer—you'll certainly enjoy the band's consistently smooth tempo and subtle rhythmic nuances. This CD is a must for any modern swing enthusiast.

Visit the band at

- "Curious George" McMullen 

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