In this day and age there are many copies and fewer originals. Philadelphian crooner Billy Ruth is and original. Having sung in virtually every venue within and around the City of Brotherly Love, Mr. Ruth has entertained countless audiences and been backed by a who’s who of Philadelpia talent.
Certainly comparisons can be made to Sinatra but Ruth treats each arrangement here with his own vocal sound and touch. Bill Whited contributed the majority of the arrangements which serve as the perfect backdrop for Ruth’s mature vocals.
The cast of musicians assembled for the three big band cuts were. Dennis Wasko on trumpets, Ron Kerber on alto and tenor saxophones, Jonathan Rees on alto, Skip Spratt on baritone and tenor saxes and Paul Arbogast on trombones. Interestingly enough the “virtual” big band swings hard, particularly when backed by drummer Carl Mottola. Four horn players overdubbed the five saxophone, four trombone and four trumpet parts over the course of two separate sessions. Give a listen to the drums kicking the horn figures, it is difficult to imagine they were not in the room at the same time! Nice job Carl.
As much fun as the big band tracks are, they are only part of the story on Here’s to Life. World class jazz players Larry McKenna and John Swana (who just happen to live in Philly) lend their solo talents on As Long As I Live and George Rabbi lends a GORGEOUS and heartfelt flugelhorn line to the title track. Lastly, Ron Kerber shares his talents on flute and alto flute on the Jobimesque If.
The star-studded cast of Philadelphians mentioned earlier hosts the contributions of three wonderful bassists, Jack Hegyi, Kevin MacConnell and Andy Lalasis. Guitarists Rudy Troccoli, Sony Troy and Johnny Valentino all lend their solo talents on different cuts. Chic Sperell and Edgardo Cintron are on drums and percussion respectively.
The ensemble and solo string playing, particularly behind Billy Ruth’s voice and George Rabbi’s flugelhorn is just beautiful. Whited’s piano underscoring and string arrangement on Here’s to Life is one of the most precious moments on this recording. Kudos to Jennie Lorenzo, Davis Barnett, Emma Kummrow and Igor Szwec for the lush ensemble string playing.
After several listenings this writer continues to be pleased to have been part of the big band project for Billy Ruth’s Here’s to Life. My personal favorites are If and the title track which are understated, lush and tender – just like Mr. Ruth.
You can find out more about Billy Ruth at http://billyruth.com