Big Band Splash - The Soul Collection (2014)

Big Band Splash
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Recording a cover of a well-loved or vintage song selection can seem like sheer laziness, but it can actually a daunting task when there's reverence for the culture and material. One would be hard-pressed to find a band that would successfully interpret modern and classic soul music that originated over a continent away, but Big Band Splash has accomplished just that with their latest digital release, The Soul Collection. 

Recording a cover of a well-loved or vintage song selection can seem like sheer laziness, but it can actually a daunting task when there's reverence for the culture and material. One would be hard-pressed to find a band that would successfully interpret modern and classic soul music that originated over a continent away, but Big Band Splash has accomplished just that with their latest digital release, The Soul Collection. 

Delving into a smorgasbord of modern-day and back-in-the-day favorites, Big Band Splash closely follows the nuances of the originals without attempting to outright 'Xerox' every inflection and ad-lib. The 24-member ensemble whittles itself down to a dozen or so main performers when it comes to stage work and vocalizing (Gracelia Chin A Loi, Greta Bondesson, Zven Zetterberg, Joh Nemeth, Knock-Out Greg, Marino Valle and Sunniva Bondesson), but the sound stays brassy and exuberant. For every cover that shadows its source of origin---Willie Hightower's "You Used Me Baby," Ann Sexton's "I Had a Fight With Love," Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good," Buddy Guy's "Well I Done Got Over It"----there are others that differ in texture, tempo and feel.  Albert King's "Drowning On Dry Land" is tweaked and polished, yet grittier, but "Valerie," most recently popularized by the late Amy Winehouse, feels pensive this time around rather than jaded. 

If their Swedish roots make it hard to believe that Big Band Splash can convincingly convey soul, think again: there are some major skills and chutzpah at work in channeling the spirit of Sam Cooke ("That's Where It's At"), the fervor of James Brown ("It's a Man's World"), Etta James' irony "("Tell Mama") and yes, even the sugary soul-lite of Beyonce's "Suga Mama" with energy and intent. The difference in accents is noticeable in their interpretations, but not so much that they detract from the sound. 

Some renditions may do too much ("Man's World") or feel too restrained in places ("Suga Mama"), but it's like the saying goes: "It's not about where you're from, it's where you're at." Maybe that's why it succeeds and why their name as a group fits, conveying their ambitions and their confidence in what they deliver.  And that is also what makes their audience, which took root with their 2004 debut, continue to grow.  Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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