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The Las Vegas Boneheads’ New Compilation Will Appeal To Jazz Fans, Trombonists Alike

Sixty years is a major milestone for anybody to reach.  That includes not only individuals, but groups, too.  Reaching sixty years means someone has been doing something right for quite a while.  And last year, the musical collective known as The Las Vegas Boneheads (yes, that is really the group’s name) marked its sixtieth anniversary.  In celebration of the new milestone, the band released its new album, Sixty and Still Cookin’.  The 10-song record is, according to its liner notes, only the second record that the group has released in its now six decade-plus life, which is surprising to say the least.  Released April 1, the 55-minute presentation is composed primarily of covers, though there is a trio of originals added to the mix to help the presentation.  The most notable of those songs comes late in the album’s run in the form of ‘The Nervous Nellie,’ which will be discussed shortly.  Among the most notable of the covers featured in this record is that of the Johnny Mercer/Jimmy Van Heusen song, ‘I Thought About You.’  It will be examined a little later.  Another notable original featured in this record comes early in its run in the form of ‘Home Again.’  This song will also be examined later.  When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and with the record’s other original and the rest of its covers, the whole makes Sixty and Still Cookin’ a record that jazz fans in general will enjoy just as much as any trombonist.

Sixty and Still Cookin’, the second album from the veteran music collective, The Las Vegas Boneheads, is a compilation record for the most part, even with its trio of original tunes.  Even with that in mind, it is still an enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new covers and compilation records.  ‘The Nervous Nellie,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is just one of the examples of what makes the collection worth hearing.  One of the three originals featured as part of the record’s body, it stands out through its light swing approach.  The group brings a great big band sense to the composition.  Sadly there is no background information on the song in the record’s packaging to help lay the proverbial groundwork for the arrangement.  The swinging solos are the kind of thing that jazz fans might more commonly think would come from a saxophone player but fit just as well here.  Drummer Larry Aberman’s steady time keeping throughout the song adds to the enjoyment, even as he adds his own subtle fills here and there throughout the song.  The end result of the nearly five-minute song is that it comes across so fully from beginning to end and will leave listeners feeling more happy than nervous.  Yes, that awful joke was intended.

Among the most notable of the many covers featured in this new record is that of Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusing’s ‘I Thought About You.’  Originally released by the pair in 1939.  Mercer was cited, following its publication, that it was inspired by a train trip that he had taken to Chicago the night before it was composed.  While the original song included lyrics crafted by Mercer, those lyrics were omitted in the Las Vegas Boneheads’ rendition of the song, which offers listeners a light, bouncy, bluesy arrangement.  The collective’s work, which includes Aberman’s continued steady time keeping and pianist Uli Geissendoerfer’s light work on the keys, makes the arrangement such a fun work.  Audiences really can close their eyes and imagine someone taking a trip on a train in that bygone era, enjoying the passing countryside and just the class of the manner of transportation and its staff.  Bassist Steve Flora adds even more to that sense during his brief solo, which is enjoyable in its own right.

The collective’s take on this song largely stays true to its source material.  That bluesy swagger from the original is just as present here as in the original composition.  Even without the use of the Afro-Latin percussion and subtle string arrangement used in the original, it still offers its own share of engagement and entertainment.  It really serves as a statement about the intent to pay homage to Mercer and Van Heusen’s original while also trying to bring the song to a new audience.

Moving back to the record’s few originals, ‘Home Again’ is notable among those few songs in its own right.  Coming earlier in the album’s run, the song opens gently with multiple trombones playing together so softly.  The mood that the group sets through its subdued performance immediately conjures thoughts of someone in fact returning home after being away for a long time – maybe for years.  As with the other two originals, there is sadly no background to reference, so audiences can only guess as to whether that was the intended picture for this instrumental painting.

From those opening bars, the group changes things up quite notably, moving in more of a Latin direction, albeit subtly so.  It is an intriguing change of sound and style, especially taking into consideration the lighter, almost poppy piano arrangement.  Somehow, the group manages to make the whole work surprisingly well.  All things considered it certainly would have been nice to have had at least some background on the song’s genesis.  Either way, the song still proves enjoyable, if only on a surface level.  When it is considered alongside ‘The Nervous Nellie’ and ‘Samba Deez Bones,’ the record’s other original, and with the record’s collective covers, the whole makes Sixty and Still Cookin’ an enjoyable addition to this year’s field of covers and compilations records.

Sixty and Still Cookin’, only the second studio recording from The Las Vegas Boneheads in its now 60-plus -year life, is a presentation that most audiences will find interesting.  That is proven through its originals and covers alike.  The songs examined here do well to make that clear.  When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole makes Sixty and Still Cookin’ a mostly enjoyable addition to this year’s field of new covers and compilation records.

Sixty and Still Cookin’ is available now.  More information on the record is available along with all of the group’s latest news at https://www.facebook.com/vegasboneheads.