Group still the Cats’ meow |

Group still the Cats’ meow

Going Places, Doing Things

The Bob Crosby Bob Cats

Nagel Heyer Records

Bob Crosby’s Bobcats are alive and well, even though Crosby himself is no longer living nor are many of his original sidemen. The Cats’ current leader is pianist Eddie Metz, who obtained the right to use the band name and library through a special arrangement with the Crosby estate.

And it’s quite a band. True, there are no Fatools, Lawsons or Haggarts among the musicians, but there are such gifted artists as reedman Terry Myers, drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist Carl McVicker and guitarist Bob Leary. The roster also includes trumpeter Werner Lutz, reed player Paul Hubbell and the leader, all members of Park Frankenfeld’s Swing ‘n Dixie Jazz Band, highly popular in the ’70s and ’80s.

Most of the music comes from the Crosby library. No surprise there, although Metz, the pianist, has put a slightly different spin on most of the material with orchestrations crafted to fit the band’s configuration. The charts are beauties, though, tight enough to keep the band in check, but loose enough to allow for free-flowing, spirited solos.

Keeping with Bob Cat tradition, the program is mainly a mix of swing and Dixieland a la Chicago style. Such items as the opener, “When My Dreamboat Comes Home,” which includes some fine Basie influenced work by the leader; a melodic “Dogtown Blues” that shows off Hubbell’s warm clarinet; and the old Dixie classic “High Society.”

Johnson’s mellow sliphorn is featured on a slinky “Mournin’ Blues,” Metz, the drummer, gets to unleash a flurry of sticks in the high-flying “Digga Digga Doo,” and “Call Me a Taxi” (aka “Honeysuckle Rose”) finds tenormen Hubbell and Myers, also a member of Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band, hooked up in a series of fiery exchanges.

Crosby devotees will be pleased to know other selections include Leary’s vocal tribute to Crosby six-stringer Nappy Lamare, who turned the novelty tune, “You’re Bound To Look Like a Monkey When You Grow Old” into a minor hit. That howling in the background is the Bob Cat choir.

Of special interest are a medley of Crosby standbys, “Ec-Stacy,” a tip of the topper to ex-Goodmanite Jess Stacy; “Streaky Rasher,” written by and featuring the senior Metz; and “The Mark Hop,” a somewhat obscure tune penned by Bob Haggart that demonstrates the Cats of ’02 can swing with just as much vigor as the Cats of ’43.

In sum, to fall back on an expression of bygone years, the disc is the Cats’ meow.

Cam Miller is a freelance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. Write him at The Union, 464 Sutton Way, 95945.

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