When you listen to Bethany Smith Staelens on The Big Band Theory, you know immediately that she’s unique. It’s not just that she doesn’t sound like anybody else, it’s more like you’re hearing her life coming through. If you’ve lived your life to the fullest and soaked up every experience, it adds a patina, a luster to everything you do. So it is with Bethany.
The raw talent and energy of youth has given way to something more. “I Got It Bad” is transformed: a lifetime of happiness, anguish, love and regret are distilled into
something more plaintive and rich. “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” revels in a lifetime of music played and heard, evoking pure joy. Don’t even get me started about what it does to “That’s Life.”
But it’s more than her life experiences that makes Bethany a unique vocalist. Love of the music, respect for the form, a sense of immersion and abandon - kind of like flying on a trapeze without a safety net. And having soaked up all she could from listening to singers and intrumentalists, she has distilled a sound that’s...well, Bethany. The sound is hers, the style is hers - unapologetically so. It’s just what she does, and it can’t be confused with anybody else.
The Big Band Theory is Bethany’s homage to Steve Sample, a great arranger and longtime friend, with a couple of fabulous arrangements by Rich Shemaria adding spice to the mix. Eighteen New York jazz musicians doing what they do best, and Tom Swift’s deft touch at the controls bring the whole thing together. It’s a labor of love and a celebration of great music.
It’s getting some great notices, too, from some great musicians:
“You are so awesome! Great pitch, huge clear sound, amazing range, but best of all, you sing WITH THE BAND. You are a musician, on top of being a singer, which is the best compliment us guys can give you guys.”...Gordon Goodwin, Grammy & Emmy Award winning saxophonist, pianist, composer, arranger
“Bethany takes no prisoners, the band is on fire, and the charts are among the best I’ve heard!”...Scott Whitfield, trombonist, singer, arranger
“The project sounds wonderful, Bethany. The band is burning, and your voice takes the whole date over the top! A great CD full of exciting and beautiful moments. Congrats!”...John Fedchock, trombonist, composer, arranger, Grammy Award nominee
“It’s not often that you’ll find a swinging big band with a vocalist that swings just as hard. You’ll find it here with Bethany Smith Staelens and The Big Band Theory. Bethany’s range, pitch and phrasing propel the outstanding ensemble and arrangements to another level. Her soli lead on ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ is a testament to her deep commitment and connection with the band. She’s not just fronting the band, she is truly a part of the ensemble.”...Phil Burlin, Chief Musician, Unit Leader. U.S. Navy Band “Commodores” Jazz Ensemble