Lately I've been proclaiming to anyone who might be interested that in two years (or less), neo-big bands with girl singers will be the Next Big Thing. I blame this sudden attack of prophecy on Maci Miller and Rosie Flores, whose CDs arrived in the LMN office on the same day. Flores is a Latina singer-songwriter who has been mining the early '50s for inspiration, so that some of her material echoes the tail end of the Big Band era.
The young Ms. Miller, on the other hand, has dived headfirst into 1947 and come up smelling like White Shoulders. Her project, A Very Good Night, is a ten-song CD of her original tunes arranged in the Big Band style, but without being derivative, a constant danger when rehashing older music styles. The arrangements by Ed Vezinho sound fresh, with only the occasional quotation from so earlier work, and they are executed by a solidly rehearsed orchestra that's crisp and tight and not just ambling through the charts.
But it's Miller's vocals that put the cherry on the whipped cream: she whispers, she croons, she wails like a mix of Ivy Anderson and Ella Fitzgerald overlaid with Murray, Ky's favorite daughter, Rosemary Clooney. With a set of trained pipes to match the orchestra's edge, Miller demonstrates why the Big Band style was so dominate for so long. Just give "Champagne" and "Red Hot Dirty Dame" a listen and see for yourself. Besides that, she's not just mimicking the lyric style, either. In "Love Ain't Part of That Game," she advances the `girl singer' lyric solidly into the 21st Century." Her CD insert art and online posters wouldn't have been permitted in 1947, either - not by a long shot.
Miller did have the advantages of family: her uncle Bob Kimmel engineered and produced the project; her grandfather worked in Vaudeville and taught ballet. She was able to draw on these resources to find the professionals she needed to make this project more than a pale tribute to the Big Band era. So what, so good. It works. Now if I can just get WFPK's Dan Reed to put the project into drivetime rotation rather than slot it in the Jazz ghetto, there might be a chance that Tom Sobel will book Miller and her trio into the Comedy Caravan along with one of Louisville's Big Bands. What a thought - all those great players working with new charts and new songs in the style. As Miller says, it would be a very good night.
The album is only available online at www.macimiller.com and at stores in Philadelphia.