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 News Jazz 02/05/2019

Eyal Vilner Big Band - New CD, Swing Out! July Of 2019 Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing

Eyal Vilner Big Band - New CD, Swing Out!  July Of 2019 Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) The Eyal Vilner Big Band celebrates the release of its latest album Swing Out!, the fourth effort from the critically acclaimed ensemble, that follows the trajectory of its previous three discs (Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band, Almost Sunrise and Hanukkah) of advancing the tradition of big band jazz into the 21st Century. A marvelous collection of new arrangements of jazz and swing classics, as well as original compositions by Vilner, the date confirms the band's well-earned stature as one of the most swinging groups on the scene today. Inspired by the band's collaboration with the New York City swing dance community it's a crowd-pleasing venture guaranteed to get you up out of your seat and moving to the soulful rhythms.

A powerful 18 member group comprised of some of New York's finest musicians, including both seasoned veterans and talented young newcomers, its music which derives from the jazz, swing and blues traditions, strives to bring a unique voice to these perpetually evolving art forms. Marked by its continuously grooving rhythm section, tight ensemble playing, inventive soloists, along with the compelling vocals by Brianna Thomas and Brandon Bain, the band has grown to become a favorite with the New York swing and jazz scene, performing sold out shows at many of the city's most prestigious venues, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Smalls, Minton's Playhouse, Swing 46, The Django and Central Park SummerStage.

Eyal Vilner himself has earned an important place as one of the leading voices in the New York Swing Scene. Together with professional swing dancer Gaby Cook and a group of leading New York dancers, the accomplished alto saxophonist/clarinetist/composer/arranger initiated a weekly jam where musicians and dancers get together to improvise and learn about each other's languages of sound and movement, inviting artists from different backgrounds to collaborate and create something beautiful together. Swing Out! is the culmination of these sessions, recorded live in the studio with dancers dancing to the swinging sounds, both sweet and hot, of the Eyal Vilner Big Band. Vilner proclaims, "Ever since I started playing, for me, swing was the thing." He says, "I remember having conversations with my teachers back in Tel Aviv about the bands that really swung and how that feeling is so essential to the music we call jazz. But it was only after I started swing dancing myself that I began to truly understand just what that means."

Swing Out!, marks an important development in the evolution of the Eyal Vilner Big Band, one that is the direct result of the band's interaction with the swing dance community.

Vilner says, "In the past few years, we've started playing more and more for swing dancers. This has really influenced the way I play and write music. I fell in love with the dance and have become really passionate about the connection between musicians and dancers in the swing world. This exchange between dance and music, movement and sound, feels so new and refreshing - yet so natural and familiar. It feels like we're bringing it back to where jazz and swing dancing grew up and developed together, influenced and inspired by one another."

The program on the album represents different sides of the band's music. The disc opens with Vilner's "Downhill," a new piece that has already become a favorite on the New York Lindy Hop scene. A hard-grooving outing with a shuffle beat that recalls the sound of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, it features Vilner's soulful alto solo along with trumpeter Brandon Lee and plunger muted trombonist Rob Edwards. Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone" reminiscences the sumptuous dynamics of Count Basie and features vocalist Brianna Thomas. Thomas is featured again on "Dinah", an up-tempo outing that is part of the band's New Orleans program with Vilner wailing on both alto and clarinet and guest Andrew Miller on washboard. The Crescent City excursion continues on "Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)," with veteran trumpeter James Zollar delivering a growling plunger muted trumpet solo.

The music moves up the river to Missouri for W. C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues". Featuring Thomas's soulful vocal, it opens with a habanera beat and then traverses through Dixieland, swing and shuffle rhythms before finishing off with two big shout choruses where the band plays a Louis Armstrong solo orchestrated for all 12 horns. Vocalist Brandon Bain makes his debut with the band singing the romantic ballad "That's All" on a pretty arrangement that also features Vilner's lyrical and smooth toned alto sax. "Big Apple Contest" is taken from the 1939 film Keep Punchin' that includes Frankie Manning's spectacular choreography. Originally performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers it has become one of the most iconic dance routines in the swing dance community. Vilner notes, "In the swing community dancers create such impressive and musical choreographies that express jazz recordings through their dance. This inspired me to do the same on my end and write an arrangement that's inspired by this classic choreography and expresses the dance through the music." "My Baby Just Cares for Me" is Vilner's tribute to Nina Simone, originally commissioned by his fellow Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri to be performed at the Red Sea Jazz Festival. "Going Uptown" is another dance inspired Vilner original. He says, "One of the basic first moves that swing dancers learn is a 6-count basic, which for me was so weird because the music is in 4/4! I made the melody start with a 6-count phrase and played with that motif throughout the song. At some point we even go into a brief waltz, but then end with a smacking big hit to bring us back to swing!" The R & B classic "5-10-15 Hours" is a straight up party tune with lots of call and response between Thomas and the band. Vilner's tribute to the Andrews Sisters, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," opens with his wailing clarinet leading the band into classic swing mode that propels gritty solos by Michael Hashim and James Zollar followed by a big shout chorus. The date comes to an exciting close with Vilner's epic arrangement of Mahalia Jackson's "I'm on My Way to Canaan Land" that features a guest appearance by virtuoso flautist Itai Kriss and as Thomas displaying her strong gospel roots as the song alternates between Middle Eastern and Afro Cuban rhythm.

Vilner once again has created a compelling collection of exhilarating original compositions paired with well-chosen standards, adorned with his impeccable arranging skills, all brought to life with his vivid pen and an outstanding line-up of masterful performances that continue the tradition of excellence known as The Eyal Viler Big Band.

Liner Notes by Russ Musto, New York City Jazz Record

Swing is in! All over the world, from Manhattan to Moscow, audiences these days are embracing the sound of big band jazz that gets listeners up from their seats and out moving on the dance floor. "Ever since I started playing, for me, swing was the thing," proclaims Israeli born saxophonist/clarinetist/composer/arranger Eyal Vilner. He says, "I remember having conversations with my teachers back in Tel Aviv about the bands that really swung and how that feeling is so essential to the music we call jazz. But it was only after I started swing dancing myself did I begin to truly understand just what that means." Recalling sessions with his mentor, Count Basie saxophonist Frank Wess, Vilner notes "I think about how his sound and phrasing and sense of rhythm just made you feel so good! You could not not move to it!"

Swing Out!, the fourth album by the Eyal Vilner Big Band, marks an important development in the evolution of this fantastic group comprised of some of New York City's finest musicians; one that is the direct result of the band's interaction with the swing dance community. Vilner says, "In the past few years, we've started playing more and more for swing dancers. This has really influenced the way I play and write music. I fell in love with the dance and have become really passionate about the connection between musicians and dancers in the swing world. This exchange between dance and music, movement and sound, feels so new and refreshing - yet so natural and familiar. It feels like we're bringing it back to where jazz and swing dancing grew up and developed together, influenced and inspired by one another. It's like we're bringing it back home."

In what may very well be a first, this disc was recorded live in the studio with dancers dancing while the musicians played. Vilner says, "We are striving to create something new in the genre and tell our story through these aesthetics. The program on the album represents different sides of our music as a band." The disc opens with Vilner's "Downhill", a new piece that has already become a favorite on the Lindy Hop scene in New York. A soulful outing, it has a solid shuffle beat that recalls the sound of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger's classics like "Moanin'" and "Dat Dere". Vilner steps back from his conductor's podium to take the album's first solo, his smooth toned alto gliding rhythmically over the funky rhythm, after which trumpeter Brandon Lee takes a high flying turn, followed by trombonist Rob Edwards, who gets down and dirty with a plunger muted statement.

Vilner's arrangement of Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone" was written in tribute to Count Basie and his band's sumptuous dynamics. Vocalist Brianna Thomas sings the original Milt Gabler lyric with silky elan and then adds her self-composed vocalese chorus based on a Trummy Young trombone solo around which Vilner orchestrated the piece. Thomas is featured again on "Dinah", an uptempo outing that is part of the band's New Orleans program with Vilner wailing on both alto and clarinet and Andrew Millar's washboard sharing rhythm section duties with Eran Fink's drum kit. The Crescent City excursion continues on "Do You Know What it Means (To Miss New Orleans)", with veteran trumpeter James Zollar delivering a growling plunger muted trumpet solo after which pianist Jordan Piper, bass trombonist Ron Wilkins and clarinetist Evan Arntzen follow with their own easy grooving improvisations.

The music moves up the river to Missouri for W. C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues". Vilner's idiosyncratic arrangement, featuring Thomas's soulful vocal, opens with a classic habanera beat that Jelly Roll Morton famously described as "the Latin tinge" and then traverses through Dixieland, swing and shuffle rhythms before finishing off with two big shout choruses where the band plays a Louis Armstrong solo orchestrated for all 12 horns. Vocalist Brandon Bain makes his debut with the band singing the romantic ballad "That's All" on a pretty arrangement that also features Vilner's lyrical alto sax. "Big Apple Contest" is taken from the 1939 film Keep Punchin' that includes Frankie Manning's spectacular choreography. Originally performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers it has become one of the most iconic dance routines in the swing dance community. Vilner notes, "In the swing community dancers create such impressive and musical choreographies that express jazz recordings through their dance. This inspired me to do the same on my end and write an arrangement that's inspired by this classic choreography and expresses the dance through the music."

"My Baby Just Cares for Me" is Vilner's tribute to Nina Simone, originally commissioned by his fellow Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri to be performed at the Red Sea Jazz Festival. Thomas sings the melody over Piper's jaunty piano accompaniment after which saxophones and brass play Vilner's orchestration of Simone's original piano solo. "Going Uptown" is another dance inspired Vilner original. He says, "One of the basic first moves that swing dancers learn is a 6-count basic, which for me was so weird because the music is in 4/4! I made the melody start with a 6-count phrase and played with that motif throughout the song. At some point we even go into a brief waltz, but then end with a smacking big hit to bring us back to swing!" Vilner describes the Ruth Brown R&B classic "5-10-15 Hours" as "a straight up party tune with lots of call and response between Brianna and the band, bluesy solos by baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket and pianist Piper, and a shout chorus that I developed from one of the piano licks on the tune's original recording." His tribute to the Andrews Sisters, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen", opens with his wailing clarinet leading the band into classic swing mode that propels Michael Hashim's gritty tenor solo. The date comes to an exciting close with Vilner's epic arrangement of "I'm on My Way to Canaan Land" that features a guest appearance by virtuoso flautist Itai Kriss and has Thomas displaying her strong gospel roots as the song alternates between the Baladi groove to 6/8 Afro Cuban rhythm.

The joyous tension of syncopated rhythms that is called swing is a hard to define entity, but one that has spread from venues like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom to night clubs and dance halls all over the world, propelling happy feet to move with the pulsations of music that just makes one feel good. That feeling is evident throughout this disc and in all the music played by the Eyal Vilner Big Band. Vilner knows "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" and you can hear it here. Just listen.
PLAYERS AND INSTRUMENTS:
All music arranged by Eyal Vilner (BMI)

Eyal Vilner - alto sax, clarinet, flute, conducting, arrangements
Vocals: Brianna Thomas, Brandon Bain
Bryan Davis - lead trumpet
Michael Sailors - trumpet
Brandon Lee - trumpet
James Zollar - trumpet
Robert Edwards - trombone
Mariel Bildsten - trombone
Ron Wilkins - bass trombone
Bill Todd - alto sax, clarinet and flute
Jordan Pettay - alto sax
Evan Arntzen - tenor sax, clarinet
Michael Hashim - tenor sax
Eden Bareket - baritone sax
Jordan Piper - piano
Ian Hutchison - bass
Eran Fink - drums

Special guest: Itai Kriss - flute (track 12), Andrew Millar - washboard (track 3)

TRACKS AND TIMES:
Swing Out!
Eyal Vilner Big Band
1 Downhill…………….........………….....151 bpm (3:53)
by Eyal Vilner (BMI). Solos: Vilner, Lee, Edwards
2 In a Mellow Tone………………………130 bpm (4:42)
By Ellington & Gabler
3 Dinah……….........………….................. 210 bpm (3:36)
by Akst, Lewis & Young. Solo: Vilner
4 Do You Know What it Means………...111 bpm (3:52)
by Alter & Lange. Solos: Piper, Wilkins, Arntzen, Zollar
5 Saint Louis ……….........………….........169 bpm (4:29)
by Handy. Solos: Hashim, Piper
6 That's All….……….........………….......72 bpm (3:50)
by Haymes & Brandt. Solo: Vilner
7 Big Apple Contest……….........………...218 bpm (2:57)
by Norman. Solos: Vilner, Bildsten, Arntzen, Sailors, Davis
8 My Baby Just Cares for Me…………….125 bpm (3:24)
by Donaldson & Kahn
9 Going Uptown……….........…………....202 bpm (3:29)
by Eyal Vilner (BMI). Solos: Lee, Sailors
10 5-10-15 Hours…………………………. 136 bpm (3:25)
by Toombs. Solos: Bareket, Piper
11 Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen………………...185-235 bpm (3:48)
by Secunda, Jacobs,Cahn & Chaplin. Solos: Hashim, Piper, Zollar
12 I'm on My Way to Canaan Land……….127 bpm (6:30)
by Jackson. Solos: Kriss, Fink






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