When the owners at The Iridium NYC once again extended the open-ended run of shows for Terese Genecco & Her Little Big Band into their fourth year through 2012, there was a feeling of celebration in the air. The club had recently installed a state-of-the-art recording studio next to the stage and had begun broadcasting nightly performances worldwide via Livestream.com. Les Paul, a weekly mainstay at the club for over 10 years, had recently passed away but guitar virtuosos were flocking to his former musical home on Monday nights to pay tribute to the former Gibson Guitar legend. On one momentous occasion in 2011, Jeff Beck descended upon the venue with special guests in tow and recorded his live tribute to his hero. The man who captured that show and preserved it for all time was already a Grammy Award-Winning recording engineer and a live music recording specialist named, aptly enough, Paul Special.
Terese Genecco contacted Special and asked if he would record one of her performances at The Iridium for her sophomore CD, her second live recording with her 8-piece "little big band" in New York City. He agreed. And so, on October 12, 2011, in two swinging sets of full-throttle, retro musical goodness, Genecco and the band went to work to capture the essence of their "longest-running nightclub act on Broadway."
Distilled down to the top 12 songs presented over the course of the night, they eliminated the between-song banter with the band and off-the-cuff joking with the audience in favor of a more pure musical experience for the listener. All of the excitement and energy of the live performance still come through loud and clear and the joyous nature of the vibe Genecco creates at every show is palpable on this disc.
The band personnel on this recording included "little big band" regulars Barry Levitt on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass, Ray Marchica on drums, Sean Harkness on guitar, and Cliff Lyons on tenor saxophone. Passing through town on tour with another band was San Francisco trumpet man Rich Armstrong who had played with Genecco on the West Coast for years. Naturally, she asked him to join them for this recording and Kenny Lavender graciously gave up his trumpet chair for the night. Armstrong's stunning execution and exciting playing are a featured part of the whole experience of the night. Add to that guest trombonist Doug Beavers (regular Mark Miller was on tour with the Frank Sinatra/Twyla Tharp show "Come Fly Away") and percussionist Rex Benincasa subbing in for the always-working Mayra Casales, and a superb mix of band and bandleader was achieved with flavors from Genecco's West Coast past and East Coast present.
Along with traditional swingers like "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" and "I've Got You Under My Skin," Genecco unearthed several treasures from the vault including Mel Torme's "Swingin' On The Moon," a Jack Jones-inspired version of "A Lot Of Livin' To Do," a Sammy Davis, Jr.-inspired version of "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" and the 1960s rarity "Washington Square." There is also the fast charging Latin-to-Swing "You're My Thrill" and a peppy version of "What Is This Thing Called Love." Genecco's version of the traditional folk song "Frankie And Johnny" is nothing short of an epic re-telling of the Frances Faye/Russell Garcia arrangement from their Bethlehem recording of folk songs from the 1950s. And finally, thankfully, one achingly beautiful ballad makes it onto the disc with Rich Armstrong's trumpet setting up and playing romantic lover lost to Genecco's heartbreak on "The Thrill Is Gone."
These twelve tracks only scratch the surface of the deeply swinging iceberg that is Terese Genecco & Her Little Big Band but with another year of monthly performances to come at The Iridium, there is bound to be a follow-up disc before too long and we'll welcome it, like this one, with happy, open arms.