The latest album from faculty jazz band the Hillcats assures listeners that the Great American Songbook is still alive.
“Lean on It” compiles tunes from across the spectrum of the mid-century’s jazz repertoire, arranged anew by Chris McCourry, Hillcats trumpeter and director of jazz ensembles. Hillsdale’s jazz faculty, joined by singer and Social Media Coordinator Gianna Marchese ’17, brings traditional jazz fresh energy with the album.
Each of the nine songs that make up the album contains an intro that projects the theme of the rest of the song. Once the mood is reached, Marchese’s marvelous voice greets listeners. Her voice stands out in many places: “Moonlight Serenade” in particular showcases Marchese’s pure tone and exceptional range, her biggest strengths as a vocalist.
The first song of the album, “Time After Time,” sets the tone for the songs following. From Grammy Hall of Fame award-winning album “Chet Baker Sings,” the song as sung by Marchese rekindles the same emotion of the original, enhanced with a livelier tempo.
Perhaps the highest point of the album is a take on the classic standard most memorably done by Frank Sinatra in “I’ll Remember April.” This song brings an exciting arrangement from McCourry and a wistful set of lyrics in harmony, maintaining the sentiment jazz listeners have come to love from Sinatra’s version in an uptempo arrangement that feels fresh.
“Moonlight Serenade” is another one of the slow ballads that frequent the album. The song opens with McCourry playing a virtuosic line on trumpet, setting the tone for the sentimental lyrics Marchese sings. The two then combine for a duet, tastefully arranged and another high point of the album.
The soloists, too, have their time to shine: Chris McCourry plays some improvised trumpet solos throughout the album, perhaps best in “You Go to My Head.” Jon Gerwitz, the tenor saxophonist, shines in “Nature Boy.” Hank Horton, on the bass, plays a wonderful variation on the theme in “Time After Time.” Arlene McDaniel, on piano, provides a few defining moments throughout the album, most notably in “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “I’ll Remember April.”
Be sure to pick up this album from the College Bookstore; Marchese’s voice is too good to not be heard. Make “Lean on It” the soundtrack to your next evening in, and enjoy the experience.