When Chris Walden is not busy creating orchestral settings for major pop stars like Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Michael Buble, Smokey Robinson or Diana Krall, the prolific composer/arranger/conductor focuses on his first love, swinging big band jazz music. With Full-On!, (Origin, 82669), Walden's fifth recording as a leader, the Los Angeles-based multiple award-winning virtuoso presents an irrepressibly swing outing that showcases 5 new compositions for his 18-piece big band and featured vocalists Tierney Sutton, Carol Weisman, Siedah Garrett Dorian Holley, Melanie Taylor, Courtney Fortune. Seven covers of some of your favorite songs round out this exemplary specimen of big band music arrangements. The recording will be released Sept. 16, 2014.
Chris Walden often cites composers such as Neal Hefti, Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer and Bill Holman among his influences and for you, dear listener, their spirits seem to embody some of these great songs and their new splendid arrangements.
The opening song is a Count Basie-styled swinger Walden wrote called "Bailout." It features great soloing by pianist Alan Steinberger and trombonist Bob McChesney. "Lost in the Memory," featuring singer Courtney Fortune and tenor saxophonist Rob Lockhart, "Gatsby," his original written for the A&E TV movie, "Bada Bamba," and "Arturo," a song written for his special guest soloist/trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, are the remaining songs on the recording that the five-time Grammy-nominated Walden has contributed.
Sparkling reinterpretations of Leonard Bernstein's "I Can Cook Too," (from his 1994 Broadway musical "On The Town"), and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," both of which feature vocalist Melanie Taylor heighten your listening pleasure. Vocalist Dorian Holley makes "If I Only Knew" one of the more memorable songs from the recording while Tierney Sutton gives her special reading of the ballad "Only the Lonely" and makes it a true keeper. Sutton's voice caresses the listener with elegant elongated phrasings and her perfect pitch. Later on Carol Weisman's bouncy interpretation of "Hey Good Looking" is quite entertaining while Siedah Garrett's take on "Ride Like The Wind" is like nothing you've heard from her before. Her soulful voice is strong, invigorating and her range is superb as she fronts the swinging big band. This song is a definite show stopper.
Overall, all of the performances on Full-On! give remarkable credibility to Chris Walden's finest efforts as a composer, arranger and big band leader/conductor. All any listener can hope for is that the maestro decides to bring his swinging aggregation to a performance space near you very soon.