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SI ZENTNER AND
HIS ORCHESTRA

Play Desafinado and
Swingin' Country

Vocalion CDLK 4463

 

 

Desafinado - the Bossa Nova Beat
1. Desafinado
2. Maria
3. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
4. Speak Low
5. Midnight Sun
6. Goza, Goza
7. Bernie's Tune
8. Oso Blanco
9. Come Closer to Me
10. Star Eyes
11. Lisbon Antigua
12. Caravan
 
Recorded 1963
 
Swingin' Country
13. Busted
14. Almost Persuaded
15. Born to Lose
16. Make the World Go Away
17. Ramblin' Rose
18. Crazy
19. Columbus Stockade Blues
20. Your Cheatin' Heart
21. King of the Road
22. Hurtin' Heart
23. The Tip of My Fingers
24. The Race Is On
 
Recorded ca. 1965

Si Zentner - Trombone
Bob Florence - Piano
No other details available

 

Si Zentner's aggregation came on the big-band scene late, at the close of the fifties when the era had really passed. Before forming the big band, he had played with Les Brown in 1940, and then moved on to work with Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey and Billy May, as well as doing much studio work. His first group, formed in 1957, was a studio band, and in 1959 it had become a touring band, having a recording contract with Liberty Records. That was no small feat; and flying in the teeth of the current fad, the twist craze, by forming a fifteen-piece orchestra showed a certain chutzpah on Zentner's part, if not insanity. However, it worked, and the band picked up various awards, including a Grammy in 1961 for Best Instrumental and thirteen consecutive wins for Best Big Band in Down Beat polls in the 60s. Like the Billy May bands in which Zentner had appeared, his bands also featured the brass sections, giving a "fat brass" sound.

Recorded in 1963 on the Liberty label, the Desafinado album cashed in on the bossa nova craze of the time. The fifteen pieces were augmented by an added guitarist and percussionist. While not all of the tunes are, strictly speaking, bossa nova ones, they all lend themselves to a bossa nova treatment, most of the arrangements written by the band's piano player, Bob Florence. Other than a couple of originals, Goza, Goza and Oso Blanco by Zentner and Florence, which I found the most interesting of the group, the rest are familiar enough. Some of the tempos have to be slowed down to accommodate the Latin rhythm, such as Midnight Sun, Bernie's Tune or Star Eyes, as a few of them almost seem to threaten to stop, but all are certainly pleasant listening. Not an aficionado of bossa nova myself, I found the unending stream of bossa nova rhythm a bit tedious, but those who are fans will undoubtedly feel differently.

Like the Desafinado album, Swingin' Country appeared first on LP on the Liberty label. Although all selections are country tunes, several are adapted to another current craze of that time, namely the twist. I find these adaptations a little less successful than the bossa nova ones mentioned above. Perhaps, too, country music does not lend itself to big-band treatment quite as well as other genres. However, all of these tunes should be familiar, even to those who are not country music devotees. As to their being "swingin'" I'm not so sure-but entertaining, yes.

On a final note, Zentner was unyielding in his espousal of the big-band format. He refused gigs that did not call for his full band right to the end when he died of leukemia in 2000.

Bert Thompson



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