I don’t have grandchildren*, but I can imagine myself gathering the younguns around and telling them, “Younguns, Grandpa knew Nirav Sanghani when he was only a swing dancer, before he began to lead a band!” They would be properly awestruck. As I am by Nirav’s debut CD, its pretty cover displayed above.
Some facts: the CD is immensely danceable music, the tracks at righteous groovy tempos, with a mix of classic standards and riff-based originals. Nirav is one of the young musicians mentored by Clint Baker, so you know that he has taken all the right impromptu classes and scored high on the real-life exams (in front of audiences). And he understands rhythm guitar (rather than attempting to become a Famous-Solo-Guitarist-Clone) and playing for the band. The band is a compact sextet of wise individualists, and they rock in solo and ensemble. Beautiful sound . . . . and a digital download costs $8. I am sure that Elders like myself could also buy a physical disc from Nirav at any of the swing events he and the Pacific Six adorn.
The band: Justin Au, trumpet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Rob Reich, piano; Nirav Sanghani, guitar; Jen Hodge, string bass; Riley Baker, drums; Clint Baker, trombone (on BAKER BOUNCE only).
The songs: BAKER BOUNCE / DOODLE RHYTHM / MARIANAS / BLUE (And Broken-Hearted) / IRRATIONAL BLUES / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / WHO’S SORRY NOW? / LULLABY OF THE WAVES / WHISPERING. arch 26, 2019
Recorded August 19, 2018 at Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA.
From the first notes, the band floats on a well-connected four-piece rhythm section: Reich, Sanghani, Hodge, and Baker have listened hard to the great small groups of the Forties and the wartime Basie influence is so happily evident (although none of the cliches are). I noticed happily that more than a few of the tracks began with a rhythm-section introduction, reminiscent of the great small groups and also clearly setting the tempo for dancers. (Incidentally, that rhythm section has its own delicious quirky approach: hear the opening chorus of WHISPERING to get at it: hilarious and completely effective.) IRRATIONAL BLUES is beautifully evocative of the 1938 Kansas City Six, with a guitar introduction by Sanghani.
And the horn soloists (Zimmerman switching from clarinet to saxophone on some tracks; a terse, lyrical Au — with the impassioned Clint Baker, jazz parent, adding huge trombone sounds on the first track) are wonderfully idiomatic but never imitative. Eddie Condon would surely admire their interplay on BLUE and on SOMEDAY SWEETHEART. The jazz fans in the audience might think of 1946, of Savoy Records, of swing-to-bop; the dancers will be too busy dancing to consider such erudite matters.
Nirav’s originals are made of familiar materials but each has its own little surprises, and the arranging touches are well-shaped but never overfussy. I know that if I heard this on the radio or on a DJ’s playlist, I might not immediately call each of the players by name but I certainly would insist on knowing about the band and buying a few copies of the disc.
I propose that people who enjoy this CD pass along copies of it to dance organizers who might be out of touch with the best Bay Area jive so that we can spread the swinging word(s).
My only complaint about this disc is that it isn’t a two-disc set.
If you have a swing dance event coming up, this would be one of the many fine bands to hire. If, like me, you don’t, you surely will want to have the music in your home, your ears, your car . . . the possibilities are endless, and gratifying.
*Because I don’t have grandchildren, I am expecting like-minded younger JAZZ LIVES readers to visit us in assisted living, bearing new CDs, organic fruit and vegetables. I think that’s not too much to ask.
May your happiness increase!