CD REVIEW: Alex Cook with The Swing Set - Casino Music
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Alex Cook with The Swing Set
Album: Casino Music
Label: Young Pals Music
Genre: Vocal Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Big Band Swing
Sounds Like: Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams, Johnny Hartmann, Nat King Cole
Weakness: Short sided CD, more solo segments, lack of original material
Washington, DC based Big Band and Jazz vocalist Alex Cook just released his latest CD entitled “"Casino Music" in 2013. Featuring some of the hottest players from Washington DC’s Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, the music of The Swing Set with Alex Cook is a reminder that sometimes your best threads, a cold cocktail and a hot date is just what the doctor ordered.
The CD kicks things off with “That Old Black Magic” a cool upbeat, vibrant intro piece serving up steady beat, melodic jazz ambience and smooth as silk Jazz Guitar and vocals from Cook. Track 2 “Rio” is an impressive remake of Duran Duran’s 80’s hit serving up impressive jazz piano and horn section accents, well placed horn section against thought provoking lyrical content and more honey coated vocals from Cook. Track 3 They Can’t Take That Away From me” dishes out a jumping piece with eloquent rhythm section and mesmerizing musical flow coupled with heartfelt vocal delivery from Cook that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. The music itself has a jazz vibe reminiscent of classic Big Band Jazz like Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams, Johnny Hartmann and a dash of Nat King Cole. Other comparable for me: Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, early Miles Davis and even The Brian Setzer Orchestra. As this CD slowly unfolds its obvious the players in Cook’s band are quite accomplished. All horn section touches extremely melodic, the drummer pushes the natural accents perfectly and the silky rhythm section clearly gives this production a solid backbone. Make no bones about it this is classic Vocal Jazz-Big Band style. It defiantly lives up to it's title. What I like the most about this band grooves together – testament to hundreds of hours of rehearsal time no doubt. There is a plethora of musical instrumentation featured here including Trombone, Saxophone, Trumpet, Jazz Piano, Jazz Guitar, Distorted Guitar and amazing Horn Section. Some pieces even venture into Saloon Jazz. Now turning our attention over to Cook, as for his vocal abilities - he fits perfectly into this Big Band Jazz genera - like a glove. Yep this is clearly where he belongs. His voice goes down smooth and his deep rich Baritone is to die for. Like the aforementioned; he fills the Jazz space well and has the look. All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board. Cook delivers 8 classic tracks all providing deep, thought provoking wisdom with messages that are uplifting and positive. From smooth as silk “All of Me” to heartfelt “More than Words” to rocking “Faith” to rocking Who’s Got The Action” this CD pretty much has something for everyone. The CD ends with Track 8 ”Bad Things” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
CD is a bit short with just 8 Tracks. Perhaps 3-4 more tracks are needed to make this a fully loaded release. I do wish there were more original songs and solo segments throughout the CD. It's fair to say Cook doesn’t possess an elite, world class vocal ability but he does manage to pull this off well. He's got a good "Goodfella" look as well and has a lot of potential as an overall entertainer, however there are times I wish Cook would tighten up his loosely laced vibrato.
After spending some quality time with Alex Cook and The Swing Set I simply abandoned all hopes of finding any serious flaws. Instead as the CD progressed I became more and more impressed. Let me go on record and say "Casino Music" by Alex Cook is a world class musical production from start to finish - for this classic Big Band style of music. There’s not a weak song on this entire catalogue period, in fact I tip my hat to Cook for taking on numbers like Rio and making it work so well. These 8 Tracks are timeless gems. The musicianship is first rate, the songs are short and sweet musical experiences. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the singing abilities of Cook are entertaining. I guess I could go on and on all night about Alex Cook you simply have got to take a ride on The Swing set right away.