Listening to this or any recording by Doc Severinsen, you almost wish he would come close to playing a clam, or getting himself into a prickly situation before getting out of it with the usual flawless, consummate execution. It's ironical that the most visible trumpet player not to mention musical personality in America for approximately 30 years, is rarely if ever mentioned in a jazz magazine or even in discussions of big bands. And his recordings, for the most part, are on independent or self-produced labels and go unreviewed.
It seems that if Doc has an inimitable, immediately identifiable "voice" on the horn it's simply his unfailing perfection. If you hear a trumpet characterized by a full and brilliant tone, a formidable range yet so consistent that the highs sound as "natural" as the lows, complete technical facility with regard to articulations, slurs and glissandos, control of rhythms, ability to play fast or slow--in other words, a trumpeter so flawless and assured you can "bank" on it, it's probably Doc Severinsen.
His professionalism has won him the respect of all players of the horn but little attention from record collectors and followers of the jazz scene past and present. Certainly he can improvise--perhaps not the bebop of Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown-- but enough to establish his credentials in that area or at least to demonstrate a willingness to take on risk. One wishes he had looked more to a leader like Woody Herman as a model of heading an ensemble of hungry young players and entertaining while presenting the art of jazz at its best if not staying at the forefront of the jazz mainstream. Doc was more likely to take his trumpet and wardrobe on the road with a group composed of rock guitarists, synthesizers, dancing girls and boogie rhythms if, as was the case in the disco seventies, those were the sounds of the day.
At least listeners may rest assured that this recording captures him and the Tonight Show big band at its best. Guest trumpeter Wynton Marsalis adds little to the proceedings, though Tony Bennett is a plus on a Doc-fueled "I Can't Get Started," and fans of an all-time American favorite, "St. Louis Blues," will be more than a little pleased to hear the sterling arrangement and treatment it receives from Doc on this disc. As for the "feeling" advertised in the title, it ain't exactly "soul," but there's no denying our feeling of admiration for someone who takes the impossible and makes it all look so easy.