Chris Walden Big Band

Full-On!

origin 82669

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Mark S Tucker, AcousticMusic.com

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You can't blame Chris Walden for taking seven years to issue another CD. He's so in demand that the guy barely has time to change socks before flying off to front another gig, score a movie, contribute tracks to a TV series, or arrange for any of a panoply of big names: Paul Anka, Christopher Cross, Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Michael Bolton, Nancy Wilson, etc. With Full On!, the delayed follow-up to 2007's Kurt Marti Suite (during the Hollywood writer's strike in '08, though, he, sans big band, put together Symphony #1, The Four Elements and earned two Grammy nominations), we get another, ironically enough, full-on twelve course gourmet meal of many flavors.

Walden himself digs the hell out of Neil Hefti, Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, and other adventurous composers, but I also hear a good deal of one of my own all-time faves, Gil Evans, in him by the very same virtue. Way back when, at a time I wasn't very much into this kind of music, listening instead to Black Sabbath, the Moody Blues, and King Crimson, Gil's work got me started on course 'cause he loved covering Hendrix and was far from the staid sort of old school big band-er I hadn't yet developed an ear for (Benny Goodman's Yale recordings helped a lot in that too, later on). Well, just like Gil, Chris bridges many styles and modes, managing to come up with intriguing work, including compositions of his own but also a surprising variety of others'.

I mean, who's put Hank Williams, Stevie Wonder, Christopher Cross, and Lennie Bernstein all together in one package lately? In that, Melanie Taylor delivers a bright, perky, seductive and, frankly, very nicely nasty do-up of Bernstein's I Can Cook (guys, you may want to wear an iron jock while listening) amid a spunky, kick-up, splashy band before jaunting over to hit on Wonder's Sir Duke in grand fashion. There are in fact seven vocal cuts to the CD, all of which swing, some with gentility, others like crazy, with even Ride Like the Wind, normally floating and laid back, getting a bit bolder than normal (gratis Siedah Garrett). Should you have been holding your breath in anticipation of an album that cuts a fine line 'twixt big band and pop, then this is exactly what you've been waiting for.






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