Sammy Nestico and The SWR Big Band: "Fun Time"

Sammy Nestico and The SWR Big Band
"Fun Time"
hännslerCLASSIC CD

You may have heard of the North Side’s Sammy by now; his name has been stamped onto scores of big-band scores for well onto 40 years. During 16 of those years, his sparkling, swinging music main-stayed the Count Basie Orchestra. But Sammy Netisco hasn’t been resting on his laurels since, which is obvious in this set from last year: 15 fine examples of his pieces and arrangements played to a fare-thee-well by a 19-member German-based ensemble founded in 1950 by Stuttgart-based Südwestrundfunk, a.k.a. Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra.

On Sammy Nestico and The SWR Big Band, you’ll hear the kind of music that never goes out of style. The big-band biz may have seen its heyday, but here’s proof that the sound, the drive, the joy and the infectiousness remain alive.

Eleven of these pieces on the CD are totally Netisco’s tunes, and all of the arrangements are his. Regarding his own items, probably no title will grab you. But harken to superb writing for the reed players in “A New Day,” featuring an especially catchy bassoon solo by Libor Sima. Or find your inner Latino in snappy “A New Day” and the funkier “Celebracion.”

Four trombonists wonderfully lope and glide sideways and together in “The Four of Us,” with bassist Decebal Badila thumbing some fun. And, for sweet contrast, listen to the gentle horns in “A Song for Sarah” serenade Ms. Vaughan, while pianist Klaus Wagenleiter adds tasteful embellishments.

Of the four other offerings Netisco arranged, there’s a couple you’re bound to recognize and enjoy. Savor the tang in Louis Armstrong’s “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”; it’ll keep you moving. And delight in “King Porter Stomp,” the Jell Roll Morton piece that, re-imagined by Fletcher Henderson, became a signature number when the Benny Goodman Orchestra swept young America off its feet. Those jitterbug days may be long gone, but the freshness of Nestico’s arrangement still has something new to say. It features the mellow clarinet of Pierre Paquette.

Nestico is now in his mid-80s and has so many credits of so many kinds that listing them would take another page at least. But, as this CD and others post-Basie attest, you can’t help being stirred by what he writes. He provides wonderful tunes and classy arrangements that bring out the best of performers whose own names have not yet become renowned on this side of the Atlantic.

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