Nikos Chatzitsakos has achieved what he set out to do and “channelled an affinity for traditional jazz with a contemporary outlook”.

Symphonic/IDBLM 493749 Licensed Content

 Alexandria DeWalt — Vocals (Tracks 2, 5); Eleni Ermina Sofou – Vocals (Tracks 4, 7); Joey Curreri — Trumpet (Tracks 2, 3, 5, 6)/Flugelhorn (Tracks l, 4, 7,8); Robert Mac Vega-Dowda – Cornet; Salim Charvet – Alto Sax; Art Baden – Tenor Sax; Armando Vergara — Trombone; Gabriel Nekrutman— Baritone Sax; Willfe Williams – Piano (Rhodes Tracks 7, 8); Nikos Chatzitsakos — Double Bass; Samuel Bolduc — Drums

All tracks arranged and produced by Nikos Chatzitsakos

Recorded at The Bunker studios, June 13/July 5, 2023.

All or Nothing at All (Arthur Altman & Jack Lawerence) 5:43 – Solos: Robert Mac Vega-Dowda, Wilfie Wiliams /  Get Out of Town (Cole Porter) 4:48 – Solos: Art Baden, Robert Mac Vega-Dowda, Samuel Bolduc / Fly Little Bird Fly (Donald Byrd) 5:53 – Solos: Wilfie Williams, Salim Charvet, Joey Curreri, Samuel Bolduc /  Where or When (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart) 5:26 – Solos: Armando Vergara, Salim Charvet/ I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart) 5:20 – Solos: Gabriel Nekrutman, Joey Curreri / You Know I Care (Duke Pearson) 5:55 – Solos: Nikos Chatzitsakos, Armando Vergara / The Windmills of Your Mind  (Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman) 6.10 – Solos: Art Baden, Robert Mac Vega-Dowda / Fotografia (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 5:53 – Solos: Nikos Chatzitsakos, Wilfie Wilams, Samuel Bolduc

Tubby Hayes was big on the idea of small jazz bands sounding big, but the concept has been around for as long as small bands have been playing in big theatre pits. The trick is in the arranging; weaving a wide musical spread of harmonies, rather than booking a few semi-pro players to blow tunes in unison.

Tiny Big Band 2 is following along the Tubby lines, but taking a fresh approach that seeks to breathe new life into (mostly) familiar tunes.

The eight tracks here have all been arranged by leader and string bassist Nikos Chatzitsakos for rhythm, 6 horns and 2 vocals.

The sleeve note is short on background information about the group. For instance, the recording was done last June and July at The Bunker studios, but this could be the British Bunker in Sunderland or The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, NYC.  Checking the internet home page for group leader and bassist Nikos Chatzitsakos reveals that he was born in Athens, Greece, and moved to Boston where he graduated from the Berklee College of Music after studying with the likes of John Patitucci and Joe Lovano. Chatzitsakos is now based in New York. So, by deduction, it’s a safe bet this album was recorded in Brooklyn.

Likewise, the sleeve lists the musicians but says nothing about them. Some Googling reveals them to be highly proficient ‘young turks’ from the New York area. The fact that they recorded it all in just two days says a lot about their talent.  I think we can expect to hear more of, and from, vocalists Alexandria DeWalt and Eleni Ermina Sofou, Joey Curreri (Trumpet and Flugel), Robert Mac Vega-Dowda (Cornet), Slim Charvet (Alto sax), Art Baden (Tenor sax), Armando Vergara (Trombone, Gabriel Nekrutman (Baritone Sax), Wilfie Williams (Piano and Rhodes), Samuel Bolduc (Drums) and leader, arranger and producer Nikos Chatzitskos (String Bass).

The publicity note says the Tiny Big Band “combines the intimacy a small jazz ensemble with the dynamic energy a big band sound”. Whether you like this best of two worlds approach will be largely down to personal taste. The playing is, as expected, of very high standard. I loved Gabriel Nekrutman’s baritone sax solos and the light but strong touch of Wilfie Williams’ keyboard playing, which reminds of Bill Evans.

(For readers’ interest, I have failed to find out whether Garbriel Nekrutman is related to Youtube drum marvel Greyson Nekrutman)

It seems a pity that we have to research information that could be on the sleeve. After all, buying a physical disc with sleeve notes is often cited as a good reason not to buy a stream.

The arrangements are clever and interesting. The small band does sound big for its size, especially for lower register passages. Personally, there is a bit too much stratospheric brass and awkward rhythming, as on much of All or Nothing and Get Out of Town between segments of swing. That said, although Where or When is also deliberately stumbly, it still swings nicely. Fly Little Bird Fly is played fast but straight and also swings happily. The vocals have an intriguing ‘littleish girl’  flavour which is a million miles from Ella and Frank.

You Know I Care is a lovely ballad, by Duke Pearson, which nicely showcases the leader’s solid and tuneful bass.  I never have much liked Michel Legrand’s Windmills of Your Mind and reckon it has been done to death by too many people. The version here works hard at being different with big dollops of free form and high note meandering. I’ll enjoy coming back to this album again, but not this track.

Jobim’s Fotografia lilts seductively while showcasing the leader’s bass, along with Williams’ keyboards.

All in all, I’d say that Nikos Chatzitsakos has achieved what he set out to do and “channelled an affinity for traditional jazz with a contemporary outlook”.