AllMusic Gives Big Band CD 4 Stars! Check Out Review!
AllMusic - Over the course of a staggering 50 recordings and numerous popular PBS specials spread over a quarter-century, John Tesh has struggled for critical acclaim but never failed to inspire masses of fans with his always-evolving musical muses. Launching with his Emmy-winning, synth-driven sports music, he conquered the emerging smooth jazz genre in the '90s with his saxophone series and later became a force in the CCM/Worship world with best-selling recordings that found inventive musical ways to share his deep faith.
His colorful, exciting, and richly arranged and produced first venture into big band (after a Christmas album using the same dynamic) as a singer and large ensemble leader isn't as unusual a step as one might think at first. Long before he was an anchor at Entertainment Tonight and a popular recording artist and musician, he was a self-proclaimed "band geek" who played trumpet in school jazz and marching bands.
While playing piano in a rock band, he studied with teachers from Juilliard and was even named to the New York State Symphonic Orchestra. Plus there are those fond childhood memories of his parents listening to Sinatra, Count Basie, and others.
This background lends a little credibility, but ultimately an ambitious project like this can only thrive with powerful and rousing arrangements -- and he has two versatile jazz greats, Tim Landers and Tony Guerrero, to help him (for the most part) achieve magic here. Willie Murillo handles the sharp orchestrations and adds drama with his trumpet on the rousing, percussive closer, his original "Spanish Steps."
Rather than remind himself of his trumpet background, Tesh wisely defers elsewhere to Guerrero's brilliance on the instrument for solo spots on two of the most freewheeling fun tracks, "It Had Better Be Tonight" and "The Way You Look Tonight." The classic selections include "The Summer Wind," "I've Got the World on a String," "Blue Skies," "In the Mood," "Sway," and "Beyond the Sea." He also refashions a few of his renowned originals, including "Barcelona" and "Give Me Forever," which lend themselves gracefully to this format.
Tesh is more concerned about shining here as a pianist and his vocals, while not quite Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr., or Michael Bublé, are likeable enough. This infectious debut album in the big-band arena was accompanied by a PBS event called "John Tesh Big Band Live!"
With so much Great American Songbook material to choose from, and his desire to re-imagine his own material, it was a good bet that the ever-evolving musical world of Tesh would include similar ventures in the future.