What Reviewers Have Written about the Heavenly Band’s CD,
“Reasons to be Thankful”

What Reviewers Have Written about the Heavenly Band’s CD,
“Reasons to be Thankful”

Go here for Full Reviews

A solid ensemble with soloists who can ideate with the best – John Gilbert, EjazzNews

File this one under: Swingin’ NYC Big Band! – Michael P. Gladstone, AllAboutJazz

Lillard’s variable-pitch drum solo on “Bluez Organ Man,” and the song’s incredible fusion of Caribbean percussion with big band, is one of the session’s high points. – Jim Santella, AllAboutJazz

Reasons to be Thankful is a recording of fresh original material with wonderful orchestration and a unique way of blending the swing fad and the modern big band sound in one setting. This album merits many reasons to be thankful, which lovers of the big band sound will recognize. – Edward Blanco, AllAboutJazz

Those who love big-band jazz should go down on their knees and thank Art Lillard and his kind. – Peter Westbrook,

Here’s a nice presentation by Art Lillard’s big band from New York City. Lillard’s classy congregation retains the spirit of the swing era but avoids repeating all the time-worn standards. Instead, the Heavenly Big Band offers more than a dozen novel pieces penned by Art Lillard and other band members. – Richard Bourcier,

[The music is] very soothing, yet it diligently sets the big band mood with its colorful tones and bittersweet chords that border blues with a soulful dig…[I]ts title… reminds us listeners that being thankful is never out of season. – Angela Gittens, Program Coordinator, Brooklyn Arts Council

This band boasts several fine soloists who inject the bop, post-bop, and Latin elements into the mix. Mike Longo, Mauricio Smith, David Peterson, Michael Boschen, Erik Jekabson, Jay Collins and Kyle Whelan are some of the crème de la crème musicians in the New York area… a memorable and powerful output.  – Ty Bailey, Ty Bailey Productions 

“…superb…a joy! [This] music is highly original and a work of truly inspired genius! Everything about it including the playing and the orchestration is wonderful… The public needs to hear this music.” – Mike Longo 

“Art’s band was fun to record, and it’s as much fun to listen to… It feels good.“
 – Jim Czak, audio engineer 

What Reviewers Have Written about the Heavenly Band’s CD,

 “Certain Relationships” 
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…Lillard has constructed a world of robust and tuneful music that always serves the melody.

…best of all is how apt the title is, with such a large bunch of musicians still somehow forging a bond that connects the music to the listener. Their performances aren’t showy. There’s no congestion and the artists afford just the right amalgam of sound and fury.

…Animated and blazing throughout, Lillard’s Certain Relationships is an electrifying big band record. These musicians are passionate about their craft and nobody endeavors to pull ahead of the game. Their commitment drives the art, which in turn sets Lillard’s compositions ablaze and makes for one hell of an album.

-Jordan Richardson, Canadian Audiophile  

Whether it’s Lillard’s drums, the horns, or the keys stenciling opulent swirls and fiery raptures, the band’s dynamics and textural make-up are all good and free-flowing.
…impressive solos and artfully crafted nuances.

-Susan Frances, AXS  

…the unification of vocal and instrumental cuts alike makes this a delightful offering. Each vocalist is not like the other, adding up to a hugely successful approach for vocal fans, as the recording truly has something for everyone… 

-Pistano Seeber, All About Vocals  

Lillard’s point of view, if one may hazard a guess, seems to be that big-band jazz can be uplifting and fun to listen to as well as cerebral. With Certain Relationships as a benchmark, he is definitely on the right track. This is a refreshing album from start to finish.

-Jack Bowers, All About Jazz  

Lillard and his well traveled pals aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, they’re just out to have a good time and make sure you have one too. A bunch of big band lovers cast aside whatever proclivities you might recognize them for and just go and swing. Not retro, not nostalgia, not homage, just taking a joy ride down a road that’s been well traveled but certainly benefits from having some new pilots navigate its curves. Fun stuff that emits joy from every byte. Well done.   

-Chris Spector, Midwest Record Entertainment  

Certain Relationships explores a multitude of musical and emotional interactions. Drummer Art Lillard’s large ensemble is world class. Aside from fine work by the band, there are some excellent vocals…The brass harmonies are a rich warm backdrop for the vocals and the rhythm section keeps things bouncing along led by Lillard’s energetic work on the skins.

-D. Oscar Groomes, O’s Place Jazz Newsletter  

One of the best current big bands. A must have.

-John Bohannon, WHRU  

You can really hear the individual sounds and instruments distinctly, and not just when they have their generous solos. It’s crisp, yet the attitude is smooth. Muddiness would be anathema. The teamwork is terrific. And that goes for the vocalists, too: they get plenty of focus, but are decidedly part of the band. The arrangements make it all a joyous tapestry. There’s not a hard moment to be found.

There’s a sublime contented feeling, not a sense of trying too hard to prove anything. At ease, but not “easy listening,” things are entertaining and accessible, the solos quite engaging and adept, without being showy.

-Rob Lester, Talkin’ Broadway/ Sound Advice  

… drummer Lillard knows how to put a good band together to play the superb charts arranged by Lillard, Mark McCarron, Paul Carlon, Kent Glen and Jon Davis….This collection is varied in feeling, but always keeps the listener interested.  Lillard’s band in not widely known outside the New York City area, but this fine disc should open up more ears to their artistry.

-Joseph Lang, Jersey Jazz

You’ll actually get more notes than you bargained for on this album… a total of fifteen high-spirited tracks that literally “define” what jazz was (as well as what it should be).

– Dick Metcalf, Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation 

What Reviewers Have Written about the On Time Band’s CD,

 “It’s Time”
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… interesting mix of originals and standards.

Lillard is a tasty drummer… [H]e presents his swinging “on Time Band” quartet, including bassist Marco Panascia – with a big sound and an innate sense of time, Jon Davis – a versatile and inventive pianist, and Danny Walsh – eloquent on soprano, alto and tenor. The group is rhythmic and very much together, respecting the melody as it becomes their platform for improvisation.

…[T]here’s something new for you every time you listen to It’s Time. Enjoy!

-Bill Falconer, Jazz Review  

…Lillard and his pals take you through originals with real melody lines (remember those?) and finely honed standards. Lillard refers to his music as ‘accessible.’ I’d agree, but I’d add swinging, lyrical, listenable and well-performed.

-George Fendel, Jazz Society of Oregon  

… Tunes like Charlie Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” get the inspiration flowing, and originals like Art’s “If I Can” let you know that Art and his crew definitely can! …High-talent music like (my personal favorite) “Incognito,” another Lillard original, let you know that jazz is still alive and very, very well! … Most highly recommended.

-Dick Metcalf, Rotcodzzaj  

With unforced élan, this quartet plays as if no one were listening – that is, for their own pure enjoyment… Throughout It’s Time, Lillard’s music remains… brightly interpreted and obviously a lot of fun for his group to record.

-Bill Donaldson, Cadence Magazine  

[Art] Lillard and [Jon} Davis jointly arranged the standard “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise,” stretching its possibilities far past typical charts… Recommended.

-Ken Dryden, All Music

May 2022: Blue Heaven has another cd release on Soul Kid Jazz, called Deep Art.
CLICK HERE to listen to a track from that collection on SoundCloud.

May 2021:  Art Lillard’s Blue Heaven Swing Sextet is excited to announce the release of a new compact disc recording on the Soul Kid Jazz record label. It’s called Eternal Swing.

All tracks can be found here for listening