From Edward Blanco in All About Jazz
Vocalist and trumpeter Dale Head is an unheralded local guy and a staple sideman from the Bay Area who performs the music of Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams to Harry James and others as he plays the classic to standards for audiences throughout southern California and elsewhere. On Swing, Straight Up, Head makes a splashing, swinging national recording debut singing and playing the horn in re-imagining and re-invigorating music from The Great American Songbook and putting a new spin on old and familiar songs. Backed up by saxophonist Rory Snyder and is 17-piece Night Jazz Band from the Bay Area, the music is pure big band swing with terrific vocals from a unique artist with a varied background. Aside from music, Head is a a firefighter whose experience takes him every year, from June until November, flying a tanker low an slow dropping fire-retardants over California wildfires.
On this exciting debut, Head and the band fly high and pack quite a punch in interpreting swinging arrangements that make old favorites sound like brand new releases using and infectious lyricism and a muscle ensemble in an engaging performance that’s pleasing by any definition. The Cole Porter standard “It’s All Right with Me” gets the music rolling with the splashing cymbal accents from drummer Paul Yonemura complimented by Rory’s alto saxophone solo as Head belts out the lyrics with power and finesse. After a lovely rendition of “Love Is the Name of the Game,” Head delivers one of the most romantic versions of the classic Gene De Paul song “Teach Me Tonight” in a killer of a performance.
The oft-recorded Kern/Fields classic “The Way You Look Tonight,” takes on a perfect big band arrangement that truly showcases the band featuring the reeds section and a spicy solo from trumpeter Walt Beveridge. Rick Walsh’s arrangement of the time-honored composition “My Favorite Things,” also brings out the power play from the Night Jazz band and highlights the husky baritone scatting vocals of Head on a defining piece of the album. The Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen and Sinatra staple “Come Rain or Come Shine,” features the softer side of the leader as he tones down the vocals adding a bit more emotion to the song occupying the warm spot of the album.
The music unfortunately ends with a Nelson Riddle arrangement of the Porter classic “Night and Day,” and closes with the only instrumental of the set on a gyrating treatment of “Don’t Get Me Started.” Other notable songs include Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a La Turk,” “Georgia” and “No Way to Say Goodbye,” which highlights Head on the muted horn. For those who can appreciate the splendor of timeless music from The Great American Songbook, Swing, Straight Up features the classics in an amazing big band format behind the powerful vocals of Dale Head, a hidden wonder who, thankfully so, has decided to share his talents with the rest of the jazz world with a very impressive debut.
Record Label: Blujazz Productions
Here is a nice review from Chris Spector of the Midwest Record:
DALE HEAD/Swing, Straight Up: Take my word for it. Not every teen was getting off to Led Zep at the same time. There were a few of us (ahem) that were discovering Basie, Hefti and others and digging them in amazement. Badass firefighter turned swinging singer Head was one of the latter bunch. Realizing at an early age that swing was the thing he, absorbed it into his DNA if it wasn’t there already. Bringing rebirth to a dying breed, Head reinvigorates swinging, male jazz vocal, dispensing with the need to put his own stamp on something that’s bigger than all of us. Well done.
Volume 38/Number 317
September 12, 2015
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record
From Scott Yanow:
“Dale Head’s debut recording as a leader is a joy from start to finish. His enthusiastic and very musical vocals (along with occasional spots on trumpet) are joined by a top-notch big band swinging like Count Basie and Harry James. The singer revives and uplifts a variety of classics and a couple of obscurities, really getting into the lyrics while swinging up a storm. The result is a fun set of infectious music”.
– Scott Yanow
jazz journalist/historian and author of Swing,
The Jazz Singers and Jazz On Record 1917-76