Big Beat redefines big band sounds on “Sounds Good, Feels Good”

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Big Beat is a jazz ensemble started by four young men with master’s degrees in jazz arranging. Charlie Dougherty (bass), Phil Engsberg (saxophone), Caleb Rumley (trombone) and Ryan Tomski (piano). “Sounds Good, Feels Good” is Big Beat’s first full-length recording. Their previous efforts were released in 2015 and 2017.

On their latest album the ensemble is joined by Allison McKenzie, whose sometimes gospel and sometimes 1970s soul-inspired style makes the songs with vocal parts come to life. On an album full of spectacular songs that blend classic big band with 1970’s soul, two songs stand out: “I Wanna Talk to You,” and “Miss America.”

“Sounds Good, Feels Good” by Big Beat will be released Sept. 27, 2019.

“I Wanna Talk to You” by Big Beat

There is so much about Big Beat that recalls 1970s r&b and jazz fusion. Even when the group is not covering Stevie Wonder songs, there is something in the groove that reminds listeners of the r&b great.

Here, pounding drums, electrifying guitars and big horns also give a 1970s vibe. McKenzie’s vocals are confident and well-articulated even when vamping. The interchange between vocals and horns plays up the 1970s groove. Here, Big Beat lives up to its name.

“Miss America” by Big Beat

The opening horn motif manages to mix 1940’s big band with 1970s soul. The song is a critique of America’s disparity – – the ideals of a perfect republic that contrast with the harsh and sometimes violent realities.

This is another instance of Big Beat sounding wise beyond their years. A band constituted mostly of millennials, the pressing issues of contemporary life have not escaped them. Their approach to performance is fully realized and mature. The poetry of the sentiments, the rich vocals of McKenzie as she petitions for a chat with Miss America. She asks the questions that shows the problems inherent in the land of the free. The singer/narrator also has observations and hopes for America. The queries are presented amid the “big” sound of 1970s horns and drum runs. There is a nearly tangible groove that is in part created by the bass. In a song that tackles big ideas, the music wins.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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