Swingin’ and Singin’

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Praise for Swingin’ and Singin’

I got your new CD. WOW!!! It’s greater than GREAT, but I’m at a loss for words! I plan to feature it during the first hour of my program tomorrow night.
-Ken Jackson
In The Mood, WYPR 88.1

I get sent quite a few CDs from around the world, and I have to say yours is by far the best I’ve ever had. The musicianship is simply excellent, and you guys bring the music to life in the way the writers intended.   It’s a real pleasure for me to listen to a band that cooks!
-Myles Collins
Chief Arranger, Lush Life Music

Wow!  Tom hit it out of the park, as measured by this musician’s ears…  I am speechless, or keyboardless, after hearing the TCO album.  That is an extraordinary piece of art.  The musicianship is incredible—I’ve listened to it very, very closely—and the arrangements are superb matches for the singers.  Every tune is a jewel.  Tom has made a remarkable addition to the big band canon; this can hold its own against anything I have heard from the last 75 years.  You should be very proud of this.  I am proud to have played a few gigs with the TCO, and will happily play the grooves off this for my friends.  There are not enough superlatives, or at least ones of a high enough quality, to describe this.  I am very impressed, and happy!
-Scott Foster
Guitarist

You guys hit a home run, musically speaking! I can’t remember when I ever enjoyed listening to a CD that much. Your “Basie Boogie” was especially enjoyable to us. You sure have pegged the kind of stuff I like!
-Jer
TCO Fan


Swingin’ and Singin’

Here we are in 2011, and the Tom Cunningham Orchestra is still going strong. And they said Big Bands would never last! They said it in 1930, and again in 1940, and in the Rock & Roll ’50s, and in the psychedelic ’60s, and in the decade most people remember as the ’60s but was actually the ’70s, and the punkers in the ‘80s said it, and the rappers and hip-hoppers in the ’90s, and whatever they were in the ‘Oughts said it too. Those nay-sayers have come and gone, but Big Band swing is as vibrant as ever. TCO is singin’ and playin’ and delighting listeners, dancers and lovers of all ages, bringin’ those tunes that never get stale and never grow old.

So why make a new CD of this old music? Of course the recording quality is superior, but there’s more to it. Jazz is America’s great contribution to World culture. Preserving this inspired music brings us joy, which is why we sing and play. We see our Big Band as an American “Symphony Orchestra,” and we feel that we fulfill a role similar to the symphony, only we fulfill it for America’s music.

Jazz once soared as the very voice of freedom, back when its dearest virtues were Swing Feel and (as Lester Young said when describing the soul of improvisation) “telling little stories.” If those two ideals endure, Jazz’s sense of freedom lives on. We believe “It don’t mean a thng if it ain’t got that swing.”

Big Band is “classical” jazz; the Swing Era is Jazz’s “classical” period. Arrangers shaped the bands’ memorable, often inspired, sounds. They’ve been largely unsung heroes. Vocalists are the (ahem) sung heroes, if you will, because most listeners relate to singers and lyrics. We hope you do, too — that’s why we’re Swingin’ and Singin’.

Enjoy!


Track List on CD

1. It Don’t Mean a Thing (Mills-Ellington)
DUKE ELLINGTON/JOYA SHERRILL, KAY DAVIS, & MARIA ELLINGTON. The title phrase says it all about Billy Strayhorn’s mid-1940s arrangement of Duke’s classic. Strayhorn has been called Duke’s “alter ego;” among his works is the Ellington theme, “Take the ‘A’ Train.” YazooZazz (Vocal), Al Burgstahler (trombone), Jeff Reynolds (fiddle), Andrew Robertson (trumpet), Andre Enceneat (scat vocal), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

2. It’s Always You (Burke-Van Heusen)
BENNY GOODMAN/HELEN FORREST. Eddie Sauter arranged this gem. Robin’s smooth-as-Maker’s Mark vocal and Halley’s laid back clarinet both add to a marvelous feel generated by the swingin’ rhythm section. Robin Cunningham (vocal), Halley Shoenberg (clarinet), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

3. Glen Island Special (Durham)
GLENN MILLER. This is a dark-toned, upbeat nod to the scene of Miller’s breakthrough engagement — the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York. It’s from the pen of Eddie Durham, an alumnus of both Jimmy Lunceford’s and Count Basie’s orchestras. Andrew Robertson (trumpet), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

4. Oh! Look At Me Now (Devries-Bushkin)
TOMMY DORSEY/FRANK SINATRA, CONNIE HAINES, PIED PIPERS. TD’s band never swung better than when the great Sy Oliver did the score! And check out our singers’ blend and swing, eh? Andre Enceneat, Betsy Kipperman, Quintessence (vocals).

5. Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam) (Durham, Miller)
ANDY KIRK/JUNE RICHMOND. A silly title, but the lyrics are as prophetic today as they were in 1940; this music is America’s cultural legacy and will always have a special place! Kirk’s pianist Mary Lou Williams scored it. Betsy Kipperman (vocal), Will Tynch (tenor sax), Ed Crow (drums).

6. Every Day (I Have the Blues) (Chatman)
COUNT BASIE/JOE WILLIAMS. Ernie Wilkins’ groovin’ arrangement helped to launch Joe Williams’ career in 1955. Perhaps it could do the same for Andre, 55 years later. Andre Enceneat (vocal), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

7. Why Don’t You Practice What You Preach (Sigler-Goodheart-Hoffman)
THE BOSWELL SISTERS. These three young ladies from New Orleans were recording stars in the early 1930s. To say that the “Bozzies” were the forerunner of the Andrews Sisters, while it’s chronologically true, is kind of like saying the space shuttle was the forerunner of the biplane! The Bozzies’ musicality and imaginative arrangements were way ahead of their time. This delicate gem is an example of what we mean. YazooZazz (vocal), Al Burgstahler (trombone).

8. The Good Earth (Hefti)
WOODY HERMAN. It’s the name of a Pearl Buck novel, but the title also references some musicians’ smoking slang. The music is what’s really smokin’. A Neal Hefti original, from Woody’s First Herd. Halley Shoenberg (clarinet), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

9. Black Coffee (Webster-Burke)
JULIE LONDON. Sultry is what Ms. London stood for, and sultry is what Jeanette, Bill, and arranger Dick Reynolds deliver. Bill Schnepper (alto sax), Jeanetter du Bois (vocal).

10. I Only Have Eyes For You (Dubin-Warren)
COUNT BASIE/FRANK SINATRA. Sounds are shaped like putty by the skilled pen of Neal Hefti and Andre’s creative voice, taking this standard to a new level. Andre Enceneat (vocal).

11. When Johnny Comes Marching Home (Gilmore)
GLENN MILLER/MODERNAIRES. Bill Finegan’s imaginative spin on the Civil War favorite includes some lucious vocal harmonizing by our quintet. Quintessence (vocal), Will Tynch (tenor sax).

12. Basie Boogie (Basie-Ebbins)
COUNT BASIE. This was a “head” (unwritten) arrangement by Basie and his sidemen, featuring some swingin’ piano. Russell Wilson (piano).

13. Cow Cow Boogie (Raye-dePaul-Carter)
FREDDIE SLACK/ELLA MAE MORSE. Betsy’s laid back Southern drawl brings the right touch to this happy little Harlem-to-Santa Fe tall tale. Les Baxter did the arrangement. Betsy Kipperman (vocal), Al Burgstahler (trombone), Rob Jernigan (trumpet).

14. I’ll Never Say “Never Again” Again (Woods)
THE BOSWELL SISTERS. YazooZazz gets it. ‘Nuff said. Jeff Reynolds (fiddle), Robin Cunningham, YazooZazz (vocals).

15. Mission to Moscow (Powell)
BENNY GOODMAN. Mel Powell contributed this wartime chart to the Goodman book. Halley contributes her clarinet perspective to the role of BG. Halley Shoenberg (clarinet), Russell Wilson (piano).

16. Don’cha Go ‘Way Mad (Stillman-Jacquet-Mundy)
HARRY JAMES/SKYLARKS. This velvety vocal blend brings to life this story from the battle of the sexes. The score is again by Neal Hefti, who also scored “The Good Earth” and “I Only Have Eyes for You” on this album. Quintessence (vocal).

17. The Kissing Bug (Sherrill-Stewart-Strayhorn)
DUKE ELLINGTON/JOYA SHERRILL. As far as we can tell, ours is the only recording of Billy Strayhorn’s full arrangement of “The Kissing Bug.” (Duke pared it down for his band.) Robin, where can one acquire a can of Bugaboo? Robin Cunningham (vocal), Will Tynch (tenor sax), Halley Shoenberg (clarinet).


The Band

Recorded at Bias Studios, Springfield, Virginia, July 11-12 and August 23, 2009.

Mixed and mastered at Bias Studios, Springfield, Virginia.

Engineer: Bob Dawson

Producer: Tom Cunningham

Vocalists: Robin Cunningham*+, Jeanette du Bois*+. Andre Enceneat*, Betsy Kipperman*+, and Jeff Reynolds*

Reeds: Bill Schnepper (lead Alto Sax, clarinet, Flute), Ken Plant (Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute), Will Tynch (Tenor Sax, Clarinet), Halley Schoenberg (Clarinet, Tenor Sax), Randy Small (Baritone Sax, Alto Sax, Clarinet)

Trumpets: Brett Lemley (lead), Rob Jernigan, Morberto Mejicanos, Andrew Robertson

Trombones: Al Burgstahler (lead), Harold Rhoads, Scott Fridy (bass)

Piano: Russell Wilson

Guitar, Fiddle: Jeff Reynolds

Bass: Dan Hall

Drums: Ed Crow

*Quintessence (vocal quintet)
+YazooZazz (vocal trio)