The Flying Horse Big Band is back. The late summer and early fall sizzled with heat and the fervor caused by this seventh release from the University of Central Florida performance group. Titled “Florida Rays,” the recording is mostly a salute to the late, great Ray Charles, who spent his formative years in central Florida.
Just as Charles was a performer in multiple genres, so does The Flying Horse Big Band as they strive to honor him. The group is lead by Jeff Rupert who also plays tenor saxophone. Rupert is also the Pegasus Professor, Trustee Chair and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Central Florida.
“Florida Rays”: the seventh Flying Horse Big Band release
“Florida Rays” is an interesting mix of Charles’ best-known songs. There are 13 songs on the recording, but 12 are dedicated to the late singer. The other, “Watermelon Man” is in memory of one their group members.
Tunes such as “Unchain My Heart,” “Lonely Avenue,” and “Hit the Road Jack” and several others are given the energetic treatment offered by the tight-knit sound of the group. Fans of The Flying Horse Big Band will applaud the effort to mix the esoteric style of Charles with the band’s own style. Listeners who are new to the talents of The Flying Horse Big Band are in for a treat.
“Let the Good Times Roll” by The Flying Horse Big Band
The song starts with a bluesy blare of horns. The tempo is quickened, and a stifled horn effect pushes through the song. The blues-oriented vocals of Bob Papparozzi makes the song feel lived in and not specially re-done for a recording.The sound is engrossing. The exchanges between the singer and the horns inspire movement. The song’s premise and its feel are lively and engage listeners. Audiences will have no doubt why the Charles’ version is a popular one.
“Hit the Road, Jack” and The Flying Horse Big Band
On this track, the band makes stellar use of its distinguished horn section. The open horn lines seem to have little to do with the original’s sound, but once the backing vocalists begin to sing in intense and vibrant tones, audiences can hear hints of the original. The lead vocalist, again, the talented Papparozzi imbues the song with necessary energy and verve. The result is fun and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the days when Charles first introduced the song to audiences.
With “Florida Rays,” The Flying Horse Big Band proves that they have maintained their standards for quality sound, high energy, and all-around talent. The songs are credits to the group and a testament to Charles’ legacy.