By Marilyn Lester . . .

Two big band sounds and the Great American Songbook with original interpretations are worthy creations to check out.

Andy Farber & his Orchestra Early Blue Evening

Saxophonist, arranger, composer, and bandleader Andy Farber has released his second big band CD, Early Blue Evening (ArtistShare),with an enviable lineup of some of the jazz world’s finest musicians. Full of swing and blues, 17 players, many of them Farber stalwarts, execute nine originals and two standards with contemporary flair. Since Farber’s group was the house band of the Broadway show, After Midnight, there’s a keen sensibility of the classic outfits headed by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Farber’s arrangement of Neal Hefti’s “Theme from The Odd Couple” is a nod to Basie’s longtime composer/arranger who came to define Basie’s sound. Likewise, “Portrait of Joe Temperley” is a fine tribute to the baritone saxophonist who played in Ellington’s band, and later with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. A cherry on the Farber sundae is the appearance of vocalist Catherine Russell on the Parker and King standard, “How Am I to Know.”

Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster 

The so-called Blanton-Webster Band is considered by many jazz historians to be the finest collection of musicians ever to work under Maestro Duke Ellington’s baton. From 1940-1942 the artistry of innovative bassist Jimmie Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster contributed to recordings still prized by jazz aficionados today. Trombonist Art Baron (the last trombonist hired by Ellington himself), with guest trumpeter Tim Hagans and the Mark Masters ensemble (saxophonists Kirsten Edkins, Jerry Pinter, Danny House, Adam Schroeder; trumpeters Scott Englebright, Les Lovitt, Ron Stout); trombonists Les Benedict, Dave Woodley; bassist Bruce Lett; and drummer Mark Ferber) have reinterpreted some of the classics of that era, many within a bebop style. Included in Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster (Capri Records) are Ellington’s “All Too Soon” and “In a Mellotone” (aka “In a Mellow Tone”), and Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower” and, of course, “Take the A Train,” among others.

Samara Joy

Winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Samara Joy’s self-titled debut album (Whirlwind Recordings) is chock full of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. She’s accompanied by jazz guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso, bassist Ari Roland and drummer Kenny Washington. Original arrangements pay tribute to singers upon whose shoulders Joy stands, and acknowledges. “Stardust” (Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish) and “It Only Happens Once” (Frankie Laine) are homages to Nat King Cole, while Billie Holiday is remembered in “Let’s Dream in the Moonlight” (Matty Malneck, Raoul Walsh) and “Jim” (Edward Ross, James Caesar Petrillo, Nelson Shawn). Samara Joy is a fine collection of work beautifully interpreted by this relative newcomer to the jazz scene.