This is the second CD from Straight Ahead, and it's a great combination of charts that show off the work these guys put into their music. The whole thing starts off a little out of genre with "America," and continues through a subtle tribute to our country and its music, with songs from Sinatra to Santana. These tunes show what a solid big band can do when the music comes first. Instead of running through the play list with comments on each of the sixteen charts, I'll just encourage you to buy the CD, set aside some quiet time, and enjoy over an hour of truly good American music.
Under the leadership of Steve Fischer, the 18-piece Straight Ahead Big Band plays a wide variety of music associated with famous big bands, and especially the "straight-ahead" style of bands such as those lead by Count Basie. (Hence the name of the group.) The band got started in Redding, California, in 1991, sort of as a rehearsal band, when founder and former manager Bill Rummel moved to town with a folder of big band charts.
Before long there were 16 musicians from Redding and the surrounding Northern California area molded into a swinging group with a nice big band sound. It wasn't long until people began hearing the band and asking it to play for various events, and since then there have been many concerts, club dates, fairs, festivals, parties and weddings all over the north state. The group has grown a little and changed a few personnel over the years, as happens in the band business, but Steve and Bill and a couple others of the original group are still in it and going strong, and many of the others still fill in when schedules permit.
In the year 2000, Steve & his wife Nancy squeezed the band into Redding's Patchcord Studio, played through 14 tunes and produced their first CD, entitled "First Take." (If the "First Take" CD is not available here when you read this, IT WILL BE SOON! Please check back.) In March of 2002, they hit the studio again, and in May their new CD, "Second Track" was born. Both CDs offer a variety of fine ensemble work, solo instrumentals and vocals in a most enjoyable big band style. If you have a chance to catch the group in a live setting, you're in for a real treat, because there is nothing that compares to a real full sized band of this type, and this group does it very well, indeed. Whether for listening or dancing, there will be something for every fan of big band music at each performance.
Besides Count Basie, there are the familiar sounds of Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton to listen for, as well as newer music in the genre and tunes written and arranged by some of the band's past and present members. The big band sound that filled America's dance and concert halls for years is alive -- swinging and thriving right here in Redding!!!