Meditations on the War for Whose Great God is the Most High – You Are God
“Packed with strong writing, lush arrangements, some humor and some political venting. What stands out immediately is the group’s fusing of modern harmonic direction with older big band trappings. “Samantha Swing” kicks things off with Max Siegel blowing his bass trombone with a plunger mute. “Phil Stewart Figures Out Ofer Landsberg Playin’ Charlie Parker Blues” features six of the horns trading twos like a Jazz at the Philharmonic session. In “F*ck the Man (Please Vote),” Synstelien wears his politics and love of Mingus on his sleeve, attempting his own “Fables of Faubus … Synstelien and crew definitely know how a modern, innovative big band should sound.”
Mike Shanley, Jazz Times
“Synstelien has the knack of steering a big band like a much smaller outfit — turning phrases quickly and dosing out the power of his band in a most understated way. The opening “Samantha Swing” begins with Synstelien’s solo guitar spilling into what could be a Les Brown dance track from the ’60s. Synstelien’s music has a knowledge of the dance band tradition with the snark of Charles Mingus’ writing. His “F*ck The Man (Please Vote)” sprints along as a bebop burner before the chant of “boo George Bush,” “boo Nazi fascist supremacist” and “boo Klu Klux Klan” are shouted. In between there are frugal and spare solos by musicians that one day will become household names.
“So what does make a big band special? Is it the writing, arranging or performance? In the case of the Fat Cat Big Band, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.”
Mark Corroto, All About Jazz