Art Lillard’s Heavenly Big Band has been delighting local audiences with its uplifting and danceable sounds since 1987. Led by drummer-composer Art Lillard, the band performs an extensive repertoire of original songs varying in style from swing to samba to jazz ballad to bossa nova. Also in the band’s repertoire is a cornucopia of fresh, new arrangements of old jazz and swing standards and a few other surprises.
The ensemble, ranging from 13 to 17 players, features flutes along with the more traditional saxophones and brass. This mix gives the band its unique, rich, bright signature sound. Each arrangement showcases the inspirational soloing abilities of some of New York's finest jazz instrumentalists. Many numbers feature lyrics and display the special talents of top vocal artists.
"...superb...a joy! [This] music is highly original and a work of truly inspired genius! Everything about it including the playing and the orchestration is wonderful... The public needs to hear this music." - Mike Longo
"Art's band was fun to record, and it's as much fun to listen to... It feels good." - Jim Czak
Take a dash of Bacharach, a measure of Mancini, half a jugger of "Birth of the Cool," and an ounce of Tadd Dameron. Serve with a twist of modern gospel. Shake and stir. Tastes...Heavenly. - Austin John Marshall
... the night I heard Art Lillard's Heavenly Band at the Nuyorican....by the end of the first number, Lillard (on drums) had everyone jumping---singers, soloists, rhythm section---and blending. The Heavenly Band's got a quirky, unique, original sound with excellent arrangements. Some members of the band have been playing his charts for a long time. The respect each had for the other's musicianship gave the show additional warmth and an ease in execution. - Kirpal Gordon, 2003's Year-in-Review: A New York Jazz Report www.LonghousePoetry.com
[Art Lillard has] recently made hay by nudging his full-tilt aggregation toward the highly khakied swing fad. A gig's a gig, and if people are grooving while a clever ensemble pumps it out, it beats the staid reaction of some "concert" shows. But here's a reminder: Lillard's crew is capable of impressing in both formats. - Jim Macnie, The Village Voice