BIG BANDS aren't dead; they're just a lot more sedentary than they used to be.
"Yes Indeed!," the debut album by the Tom Cunningham Orchestra, is yet another example of how a big band can hone its talents without touring the country endlessly. Recorded at the Wolf Trap Barns last summer, the album includes big band favorites and features engaging vocal performances by the RPM Trio and Rod Willoughby.
As dance bands go, the Cunningham repertoire is surprisingly strong. The album opens with an Ernie Wilkins arrangement of the Count Basie classic "Moten Swing," which is satiny and jubilant, and then later retrieves another Bassie tune, "Boogie Woogie," with Willoughby ably handling the vocal. There are a couple of entertaining vocal arrangements in between as well, including the RPM's charmingly quaint version of "Cheek to Cheek." But the band's collective strength is best displayed in richly colorful passages of Ellingtonia ("The Mooche" and "Baghadad" ) and amid the jaunty, boppish harmonies of "Ray's Idea."
Here and there the live recording rings a bit hollow, a problem that takes some of the shine off the horn, and a couple of the vocals tend to be more evocative than expressive. But quibbles aside, "Yes Indeed!" is bound to please many Washington area fans.
THE TOM CUNNINGHAM ORCHESTRA -- "Yes Indeed!" (Eagle No. 1). Appearing Friday at the Radisson Mark Plaza Hotel.