Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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CD Reviews - Artists - A to B

Artists - AB C DE F G H IJ K L M NOP QR S TUV WXYZ
Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Johnny A - Sometime Tuesday Morning (Favored Nations Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Feb. 2003.  Ratings: ***, L
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This is a collection of instrumental, guitar-based songs.   Quite an eclectic mix of songs. Some of the songs are quite mellow, and others are rollicking.  Some sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn, some like Kenny Burrell, and others like a rockabilly guitarist.  His songs can create quite interesting moods with just guitars and the rhythm section.   Not much for a Lindy Hop swing dancer on here, but "Oh Yeah" (178 BPM) is danceable, with a good rockabilly sound.  
 
Monty Alexander - Echoes of Jillys (Concord Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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Monty Alexander is a great piano player.  A lot of his output, however, is Caribbean  music.  On this CD he is playing jazz, and he plays it quite well.  The songs are those made famous by Frank Sinatra.   Alexander adoitly takes the melody lines we all know so well and brings them to new places with his masterful improvising.  "Fly Me To The Moon" (121 BPM) is good for dancing, if you edit out the drum solo and stuff in the middle.  Also good are "Come Fly With Me" (167 BPM) and "The Summer Wind" (129 BPM).  There are other slow songs not suitable for dancing, but they send shivers up my spine.  If you appreciate fine piano jazz, check out this CD.  If you like Sinatra's songs, but are tired of his voice, check out these interpretations.  They include some wild-ass bop piano solos by Alexander, and some wild-ass bop bass solos by bassist John Patitucci.  
 
Lorez Alexandria - Lorez Sings Pres (King - 1987) 
Reviewed: 19 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: **, L½
This album was recorded in the late 50's and only contains 31 minutes of music.  I'm not impressed, the songs don't move me.  The best song is only scatting: "D. B. Blues" (141 BPM).  "Jumpin With Symphony Sid" (156 BPM) is mostly just forgettable scatting and tepid solos.    
 
Mose Allison - The Best of Mose Allison (Atlantic Jazz - 1988) 
Reviewed: 27 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL½ 
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This is great 60's jazz-blues.  Mose's singing is warm and laid-back.  Its a relaxing bath of mellow jazz sounds.  Most of the songs are just a jazz trio (drums, bass, piano), but some add a tenor sax or trombone.  Some of the songs are really up-tempo, some are slow blues, some don't swing, but there's a handful of gems that are in the perfect range for slow hanging Lindy dancing: "I Don't Worry About a Thing" (110 BPM), "Your Mind Is On Vacation" (110 BPM), "Don't Forget to Smile" (112 BPM), and "I Love the Life I Live" (122 BPM).  Most of his songs have great breaks, and the average song length is only about 2:30.  His piano playing rocks.  Recorded from 1962 to 1970, this album is a compilation from five different albums Mose recorded for Atlantic.  It may be the 60's influence, but there's something that makes me say "I dig it."
 
Mose Allison - Greatest Hits  (Prestige Records - 1988) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Recorded 1957 to 1959, these songs were recorded before the above "Best Of", but are also very good.  Everything is only piano/vocal, bass, drums, and the songs are mostly mellow blues.  I like "I've Got a Right to Cry" (117 BPM).  Includes liner notes by Pete Townshend of the Who.  Songs are very short. 
 
Karrin Allyson - In Blue (Concord Records - 2002) 
Reviewed: 29 Mar. 2003.  Ratings: ****½, L½
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I am totally loving this CD.   If you like slow vocal jazzy blues, you'll love it too.  I love the singing and playing, from the first song, "Moaning" (113 BPM), with its excellent simultaneous voice and sax to "Everybody's Crying Mercy" (69 BPM) with its lovely message, to "Evil Woman Blues" (89 BPM) with its excellent breaks, to "Love Me Like a Man" (89 BPM) because it just kicks butt.  I've never heard "Moaning" done better.   Its a bit of a stretch to claim that this CD has much for Lindyhop dancing, but its excellent for blues dancing.   This girl can scat, and her scatting always fits the song perfectly.  
 
Karrin Allyson - I Didn't Know About You (Concord Records - 1993) 
Reviewed: 15 May 2003.  Ratings: ****, L½
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This was Allyson's first CD.  I didn't see how I could possibly like this CD as much as the last one, but I was willing to take the chance.  I was right, I didn't like it as much!  But its still cool!  The singing and playing paints pictures and I still think her voice is magic.   Instead of blues, this CD has a lot of more classic vocal jazz ballads. For Lindy, the song "Pack Your Suitcase Blues" (135 BPM) is a good song, but it has a few too many breaks to be perfect.  A lot of the songs are quite melancholy.  Well-done melancholy (as I wipe a tear away...)
 
Gene Ammons - Greatest Hits, The 50's (Prestige - 1998) 
Reviewed: 6 March 2002.  Ratings: **½, L½
Songs recorded in the mid 50's.  Very bop.  The last 4 songs are each over 8 minutes long.   Long and groovy 130 BPM songs.  Gene Ammons plays tenor saxophone.  Who needs complete sentences?
 
Ernestine Anderson - Great Moments With (1993) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999, updated 19 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LLL½ 
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Jazz/Blues vocalist extraordinaire.  This "best-of" collection was recorded live between 1976 and 1989 and features Anderson singing mostly slower tunes (only one faster than 135 BPM).  But the mid-slow stuff, five between 110 and 135 BPM, groove extremely well.  The backup band  for these "groovy" tunes is so tight it is unbelievable.  They put most of the modern swing-bands to shame. This is jazzy music.

19 Oct 2000 update: The original album is out-of-print, but the same great collection of songs is now entitled "Concord Jazz Heritage Series".

 
Ernestine Anderson - Never Make Your Move Too Soon (1981) 
Reviewed: 16 Jan.2000.  Ratings: *½, L½ 
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I loved the above collection so much I thought I'd try another Ernestine Anderson.  If you were thinking the same thing, don't try this one!  The title track, "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" (119 BPM) is good, but the rest of the CD is unremarkable.   The backup band is just piano, bass, and drums, leading to a much sparser sound than Great Moments With.  Five of the eight songs are very slow boring ballads.  There's one OK fast song and a cover of "As Long as I Live", but I prefer Ella's version better.
 
Ernestine Anderson - My Kinda Love (Verve - 2002) 
Reviewed: 19 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: **½, LL
This is a re-issue of a 1960 album.   The gem here for Lindy Hop dancers and DJs is "See See Rider" (133 BPM), a great swinging version with wonderful backing instrumentals.  The groovy energy is high with the well-times brass interjections and Anderson singing "yeah yeah yeah yeah!"   There isn't much else that interests me here because I'm not fond of flutes and mellow jazz guitar backing up her sleepy ballads.  
 
Andrews Sisters - 50th Anniversary Collection Vol. 1 (1987) 
Reviewed: 26 Sept.1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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The Andrews Sisters sound, with their close harmonies and swing rhythm, came to symbolize World War II music.  Here in southern California, a lot of the Hollywood/LA style lindyhoppers love to dance to the Andrew Sisters, so I finally bought this CD to see what the fuss was about.  I'm still not crazy about them--sometimes I want to shoot the other two sisters and let Patty sing by herself without all that relentless harmonizing.  But I can understand their appeal better now.   Seems like they are the Madonna of the 40's--well-done pop music.  Like Madonna, many of their songs are fun and make you want to move.  And most of their songs have great breaks.  I like "Bounce Me Brother With a Solid Four" (185 BPM), "Shoo Shoo Baby" (140 BPM), and "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo, Bongo)" (155 BPM) (with Danny Kaye). This album also has "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (160 BPM), and "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon" (165 BPM), (but I prefer the cover on the Swing Kids soundtrack). 
 
Louis Armstrong - Heart Full of Rhythm, Vol. 2 (1993) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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Recorded from 1936 to 1938, this was after his famous work in the 20's.  According to the liner notes, this work has been accused of showing evidence of a decline of creativity into mere showmanship.  He sings in virtually all these songs and he is the only featured soloist in most.  A lot of the songs have that New Orleans or ragtime feel, a staccato feel with little swing.   These 20 songs vary in tempo from a third at 110/120 some at 155 to 180, and the rest from 210 to 310+.  I really like "Lyin' to Myself" (120 BPM), and I like a lot of it for listening to. 
 
Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington - The Complete Sessions (1990) 
Reviewed: 8 Jan.2000.  Ratings: ****, LL½ 
This famous meeting of two jazz greats took place in 1961.  Ellington played piano with Armstrong's band and they played only Ellington compositions.  Armstrong sang in many of the songs.  The result was great jazz.  Lots of interesting improvisation.  For dancing, I like "In a Mellow Tone" (144 BPM) and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (117 BPM). Lots of the songs are 105 BPM and under, or 190 BPM and up.
 
Louis Armstrong - Swing That Music (Drive - 1994) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: *½, L
These live versions of Armstrong favorites (mostly recorded 1947-1949) may delight Armstrong fans, but not me.  The sound quality is extremely poor.  Armstrong's Dixieland jazz style is certainly attention grabbing and the performances here spirited, but its not really suited for Lindy-hop dancing.
 
Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (Verve - 1957) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
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This charming collection of songs should have wide appeal.  It doesn't require the listener to be a jazz afficionado to be able to appreciate them.  The songs are simple and sweet.  Louis gravelly voice with Oscar Peterson's masterful piano playing will transport you in to a more relaxed and sentimental place.  Most of the songs are slow ones, but there are some faster ones to Lindy to.  I like "Let's Fall In Love" (140 BPM), and "Moon Song" (128 BPM), and "I Get a Kick Out You" (127 BPM).
 
Louis Armstrong - The Silver Collection (Verve - 1984) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L
Most of these songs are orchestral versions which I detest.  Others have more of a big-band backing, but I think his voice and style lends itself best to small jazz combos.  Recorded in 1957.
 
Louis Armstrong - Satch Plays Fats (Columbia - 2000) 
Reviewed: 12 Oct. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL½
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This is a delightful collection of the great Louis Armstrong.  The nine basic songs were recorded in 1955.  The rest of the songs are alternate takes (originals are just as good) and seven songs from 1929-1932 (poor sound quality).  Armstrong's sandpaper voice never sounded better, and the woman singer Velma Middleton provides a delightful counterpart.  The playing is excellent, with a typical song having multiple distinctive parts playing on top of each other, dixieland style.  I really like "All That Meat and No Potatoes" (105 BPM) with its fun breaks.  "Keeping Out of Mischief Now" (129 BPM), and "I'm Crazy About My Baby" (163 BPM) are fun for dancing, too.  Sweet trumpet, piano and clarinet playing.
 
BadaBing BadaBoom - Volume II (1997) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct.1999.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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I'm really impressed with this CD and this Nashville swing band.  I'm in love with both women lead singers' smooth golden voices, but the man's voice is great too!  All original songs, all excellent and clever.  Besides an excellent rhythm section, this band's sound features a trumpet and a viola!  Great breaks in these songs.   A slight country feel to this band, and some similarities to the Chazz Cats.  This album was actually their first-released album, despite the name Volume II.  Very well mixed stereo production.  Everything about this album exudes quality and professionalism.  The one big problem: the usual dearth of songs in the tempo from 110 to 170 BPM.  Oh well.  Let me rave about the lyrics for a while. In "How Bad Do I Want to Feel Better" (110 BPM) she sings "Should I have a drink with my girlfriend's brother's friend?  He's gettin' out of jail tonight.  She says he likes me--that's alright, I think I'll wait another day..."  Or in "Crisp White Shirt" (185 BPM), they include "Wear flannel in the forest, plaid if you're a tourist, tank top if you're swimmin, and polyester if you don't like women.... can't go wrong with crisp white shirt!"  And in a song poking fun at the South, "That's What I Like About the North" (245 BPM) lyrics include "We eat walnuts, not pralines, and my mama didn't have me at seventeen, and all my neighbors have different genes, that's what I like about the North!"  Highly recommended CD.
 
BadaBing BadaBoom - Jonesin' To Swing (1999) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½ 
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Same interesting lyrics and tight vocals and harmonies.  Even more of a country-music feel than the last album, which I don't like.   The songs and lyrics aren't as striking as the other album.
 
LaVern Baker - Sings Bessie Smith (Collectables - 2000) 
Reviewed: 15 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: ***½, L½
I feel like I'm one of the last swing DJs to get this CD.  But now that I finally have, I have to agree that this CD contains a whole host of awesome blues-dancing songs!  LaVern Baker was a famous R&B singer in the '50s.  This Collectables label CD is a reissue of two albums.  Precious Memories is a gospel CD. Lots of organ playing and ballads.  'Nuf said.   Sings Bessie Smith is a kick-ass blues CD.  Bessie Smith was a blues singer from the 20's, and LaVern Baker and her band does her justice.  Her voice belts out the tunes with passion and the band is relentlessly swinging.  Tempos range from about 70BPM to 145BPM or so.  "On Revival Day" (145 BPM) is a pretty good song for Lindy dancing.  The excellent blues-dancing songs are too numerous to mention. 
 
Charlie Barnet - Cherokee 1939-1940 (Giants of Jazz - 1996)
Reviewed: 3 Oct.1999.  Ratings: **½, LL
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Charlie Barnet was a hugely famous big-band lead in the swing era.  The typical person will probably have heard of Goodman, Ellington, Basie, Miller first, and but you'll find Barnet along with these names on many big-band compilations.  The first song on this compilation, "Cherokee" (175 BPM) was a huge hit for Barnet.  The 70 minutes on this album provide a great selection of hot big-band songs.   Barnet is a saxophonist, so you'll find a lot of saxophone featured.  There's only a few vocal songs.  A lot of the tempos of these songs are above my favorite dance range (14 of 23 songs above175 BPM, also 4 below 110 BPM), but like a lot of the old big-bands, much of the fast stuff sounds best.  Less serious swing collectors might prefer modern big-bands, like Bill Elliott, or higher fidelity big-band recordings.  But higher-fidelity recordings came years later, and this is authentic 1939-1940 swing, short songs full of instruments, with short, focused, solos unpolluted by bop.  I like "Right Idea" (185 BPM) and "I Never Knew" (210 BPM), and "Afternoon of a Moax" (130 BPM).
 
Charlie Barnet - Vol. 1 1935/1939 (Jazz Archives - 1990) 
Reviewed: 3 Oct.1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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More good swing from Barnet.  Half of the songs on this CD are on the above reviewed 1939-1940 CD. 
 
Charlie Barnet - Drop Me Off In Harlem (MCA/Decca 1992) 
Reviewed: 12 March 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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This CD is a collection of Barnet's songs recorded 1942 to 1946 after he moved from to Decca from Bluebird.  Barnet was a big admirer of Duke Ellington's and played a lot of his charts.  Barnet did a lot to break down racial prejudice.  He hired the best, black or white, sometimes to the detriment of his career.  "Pow-Wow" (201 BPM) swings hard.  More vocals on this collection, a few with Kay Starr.  Sound quality is a little better than the previously reviewed Barnet CDs.
 
Dan Barrett and his Jazz Bears with Rebecca Kilgore - Being a Bear: Jazz for the Whole Family (Arbors Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 25 July 2003.  Ratings: ***½, LL
There's some fine playing on this CD.  The songs vocals are child-friendly, but the solos are adult-jazz-connoisseur-friendly.  The various instruments play on top of each other in a Dixieland fashion during parts of songs.  
 
Count Basie - Basie and Friends (1988) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug.1999. Ratings: **, LL 
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This CD has the great Basie swing tune "Easy Does It" at 109 BPM, which is the reason I bought it.  A lot of Lindy instructors teach using this song (or the version on the second Big 18 album).  It has a good piano line you can play with and its nice and slow.  The entire CD is composed of Basie in small jazz combos, and except for the noted song, doesn't lend itself well to Lindy dancing unless you like dancing to just a bass line and Basie's minimalist piano interjections.
 
Count Basie - The Best of the Roulette Years (1991) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug1999.  Ratings: **, LL 
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Recorded between 1957 and 1962, this CD has 74 minutes of Basie and his Big Band performing some of their classic stuff.  But somehow most of its songs are not my favorite for dancing.  Either the tempos are wrong (over half exceed 180 BPM), or the songs don't give me the right energy.  Some are too jazzy, I guess.  Flute solos bring me down.  The songs "Topsy"(180 BPM) and "Broadway" (155 BPM) are highlights.
 
Count Basie-Joe Williams - Count Basie Swings Joe Williams Sings (1956) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug1999, updated 12 April 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
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This CD is filled with blues songs that really groove.  This is a famous album in jazz, and its fame is justified. This is William's debut recording with Basie, and it revitalized both of their careers.  Basie's band complements Williams singing.  Many of the songs are too slow to Lindy.  Joe Williams's soaring voice belting out the blues is a delight to listen to.  Highlights for dancing are "All Right, OK, You Win" (135 BPM), and "Roll 'Em Pete" (177 BPM).  When I DJ, these songs are ones I can always go to, to generate excitment and get people moving.  They don't seem to wear out their welcome over time, and because of that, I upped the ratings for this CD three years after I first rated this CD.
 
Count Basie - Atomic Swing (1999) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug.1999.  Ratings: ****, LL 
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The songs were recorded between 1957 and 1960 and represent some of Basie's big band's swingiest tunes.  (This CD should not be confused with an older, similarly-named CD, Complete Atomic Basie.)   This is a great Basie collection.  The liner notes say the tapes were remastered in 1993 and the sound fidelity is excellent.  There are three slow songs around 70 BPM, two at 125 BPM, four from 165 to 170 BPM, four 195 to 240 BPM.  I like "Teddy the Toad" (125 BPM) best for dancing.
 
Count Basie - Basie In London (1957) 
Reviewed: 26 Sept.1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This is excellent Basie from the mid-1950's, captured live.    Some of the songs aren't really for dancing, with extended solos and minimalist rhythm, but still make for good listening.  Especially if you like bop jazz (I don't, usually).  But a few are great for dancing, like "Shiny Stockings" (135 BPM) and "Blues Backstage" (115 BPM). The danceable songs tend to be longer and slower.  Three songs are versions of songs from the Count Basie Swings Joe Williams Sings CD reviewed above, and only for "The Comeback" (120 BPM) do I prefer this version.
 
Count Basie - Compact Jazz/The Standards (Polygram - 1989) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, L
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Recorded in sessions in '63, '69, and '70, this is typical Basie for this period, good modern big-band jazz with soft passages and overly loud brass interjections.  Most songs aren't really conducive for dancing, but its hard to say why.  I think the few songs that are in the right tempo don't groove enough, the melody isn't carried consistently enough, and the loud brass interjections are distracting. 
 
Count Basie  - Golden '58 (Phontastic - 1995) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
out-of-print
This Swedish import CD is out-of-print, which is a pity, because its an excellent compilation of Basie swing tunes from a series of dates at a West Coast jazz club in the summer of 1958.  The sound is superlative.  Like much Basie, the quiet is too quiet, and the loud too loud for my tastes.  Joe Williams is there to sing on some of the songs.  There's great versions of "Everyday I Have the Blues" (115 BPM), "In a Mellow Tone" (128 BPM).  I like "Two Time Lover" (135 BPM).  Not much song overlap with Basie in London, another live recording from the mid-50's, but I prefer its the version of "The Comeback" (119 BPM) to the one here.
 
Milt Jackson & Count Basie & the Big Band Vol. 2 (Pablo - 1978, 1992) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL
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Recorded in 1978, this stuff is all right.  Milt Jackson plays vibraphone.  They picked a bunch of Basie standards to see how they sound with vibraphone, and some sound pretty good.  His style is very modern, running up and down the scales all day long in bop-style solos.  The melodies are lost.  Basie and Jackson trade solos on such classics as "Easy Does It" (118 BPM), "Shiny Stockings" (133 BPM), "I'll Always Be In Love With You" (121 BPM), and "9:20 Special".  These are all good, but not great, versions of the standards.  A number of other songs are too slow or too fast for dancing.
 
Count Basie Kansas City Septem - Mostly Blues & Some Others  (Pablo - 1987) 
Reviewed: 30 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL
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Recorded in 1983, nearing the end of his life, Basie still sounds fantastic.  Saying so much more than so many other musicians with so many fewer notes.  The band is terrific.  All members are excellent, famous musicians in their own right.  I love Snooky Young on trumpet with the Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham, he's equally excellent here.  Joe Pass plays guitar.   Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis is on tenor sax.  Five of the 8 songs have the blues chord progression.  Tempos range from 66 up to 231 BPM.  I like "Snooky" (111 BPM), and "Brio" (131 BPM).  A couple of other songs in the right tempo range are rather long for dancing (7-8 minutes).  Most of the songs are a series of solos.  Good ones.
 
Count Basie and His Orchestra - On the Road (Pablo Records - 1980/1995) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL
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Recorded in 1979 in Switzerland, this Basie session has a lot of over-orchestrated, loud, brassy pieces.  I do like "Bootie's Blues" (148 BPM).  But I've heard better versions of most of the other songs, even though many of them are in a good Lindy-tempo range. 
 
Diane Schuur & The Count Basie Orchestra (GRP - 1987) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **, L½
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The Count Basie Orchestra is just backing for Diane Schuur's belting vocals.  Her voice is powerful and expressive.  But the band gets little room to anything but to accent her singing with big crescendos, with all the instruments playing in unison.  The first song, "Deedles Blues" (143 BPM) is the reason I bought the CD and the only song I really like.  All the music is tight and well-played, but I'm still not liking it.  The recording has an echoey feeling, probably because it was all recorded live.  This feels more like an album full of big-band pop songs instead of jazz songs.  Just because her voice and the band has a lot of raw musical power doesn't mean the songs are engaging.  There are a number of songs in a good Lindy tempo, and I have the feeling others might like this album, but I don't.
 
Count Basie - The Complete Atomic Basie (Roulette - 1957) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LLL
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This is considered to be one of Basie's all-time great albums.  Its not hard to tell why.  The arrangements are excellent and the playing superb.  The tracks on this CD include 11 from the original The Atomic Basie (E=MC2) plus 5 bonus tracks from the same recording session.  It is not to be confused with Atomic Swing, reviewed a few albums above here, with which it shares a few songs of overlap.  There's also a slight overlap with the Best of the Roulette Years CD.  Most of the songs on this CD are Neil Hefti arrangements.  There's a number of excellent songs for dancing on this CD.  The song "Splanky" (122 BPM) is a classic savoy Lindy hop dancer's song.  For the dancer that likes to play with the music, "Splanky" has all the great elements: steady groove, call and responses, loud and soft dynamics and that hard-driving chorus repeating Dat-DAAA, da DAAA DAT!  Other highlights include "Teddy the Toad" (127 BPM), "Silks and Satins" (115 BPM), "Sleepwalker's Serenade" (115 BPM), and "Late Late Show" (158 BPM).  The other songs are all below 100 BPM or above 195 BPM.  But every song, whether danceable or not, is a pleasure to listen to!  Sometimes Basie songs annoy me: all dynamics and little content.  But these songs I enjoy.
 
Count Basie - Breakfast Dance & Barbeque (Roulette - 2001) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LLLL½
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Hold onto your hats and prepare to be blown away!  This is awesome live Basie!  The album was recorded in 1959 at a live concert in Miami.  This CD is a new re-issue.  This concert was for dancers, so this CD is naturally exceptional for dancing!  This CD provides 18 songs and a full 74 minutes of big-band Basie at its best.  By 1959 Basie wasn't playing for dancers often, but here he shows he knows what he's doing.  Playful songs and perfect tempos for Lindy Hop dancing. All the energy of a live band is captured with excellent sound quality.   You feel like you are in the same room. You'll smile at the comments and calls by the band like, "breathe! breathe!" and "yeah yeah yeah!".  On this CD you'll find well-performed classics like "In A Mellow Tone" (123 BPM), "Splanky" (122 BPM) and "Roll 'Em Pete" (226 BPM) as well as less common songs such as "The Deacon" (114 BPM) and "Who, Me?" (144 BPM).  A few of the songs feature Joe Williams singing the blues. The band is tight, the solos excellent, and the energy unbelievable.  Listen to Basie tickling the keys in the intro to "Moten Swing" (130 BPM).  I love Snooky Young's understated trumpet solo in "Who Me?" The rhythm section just grooves.  If you aren't moving at least your head while you listen to this, check your pulse.  Tempos range from 74 up to 245 BPM, with plenty in the middle.  If you are a DJ, keep your hand near the volume knob since most songs start quiet and then blast you later with a swinging wall of sound.  As of this writing, this has my highest Lindy rating: LLLL½. 
 
Count Basie - The Best of Early Basie (Decca - 1996) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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This CD contains 21 excellent Basie tunes recorded from 1936 to 1939.   Lester Young is masterful on saxophone, especially on "Jumpin at the Woodside" (240 BPM).  Jimmy Rushing is featured on a few of the songs as a blues vocalist.  About half of the songs are over 200 BPM, so if you buy this CD expecting to dance to it, be prepared to dance fast. Sound quality is typical of the era.  Great songs, great energy.
 
Aaron Bell - After the Party's Over (RCA - 1999) 
Reviewed: 17 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
Good mellow jazz.  This is jazz trio music, originally recorded in 1958.  Bell plays bass.  He played with Ellington for a while.   Nice slow swinging songs.  "Kumquat" (131 BPM) is my favorite with its playful patterns and tuba (also played by Bell) and trombone accompaniment. 
 
Bellevue Cadillac - Prozac Nation (1998) 
Reviewed: 24 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, L 
Out-of-print
This is an original swing band from New England.  They don't cover other band's songs, they don't sound like anybody else.  The album shows tight musicianship.  The vocalist isn't the greatest.  The lyrics are, uh, different.  I sorta like "Prozac" (155 BPM).  A lot of the songs on this album aren't swing.  Its a fun album. 
 
The Big 6 - Ready to Rock (1995) 
Reviewed: 14 Aug1999.  Ratings: **, L
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These guys were fun to see live, but I was disappointed in the CD.  The CD, like their live show, has mostly rockabilly/rock 'n' roll sock-hop pop swing.  The band hails out of England originally, but I think they are based out of New Jersey now, and they tour the states a lot.  This band knows how to do a tight show and CD, but I found the songs repetitive and too fast.
 
The Big 18 - Live Echoes of the Swinging Bands (1959) 
Reviewed: 14 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LL
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This album and its sister (More Live Echoes) are a successful attempt to capture the big band sound of the 40's, but with the high-fidelity recording techniques of the late '50s.  This band is made up of famous sidemen from the great big bands.  The arrangements were designed to keep as much as possible of the flavor of the original swing band, but leaving space for much longer solos than the original short recordings allowed for.  The songs are not the normal big-band favorites, but are still excellent.  I "echo" the good reviews that I found on the internet that originally convinced me to buy this.  The musically is excellent, and the sound quality is awesome.
 
The Big 18 - More Live Echoes of the Swinging Bands (1959) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
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Like the other collection, this contains great big-band songs played by great swing  musicians.   Very danceable stuff: of 10 songs, 7 are in the range from 140 to 175 BPM.  Among the excellent songs are "Easy Does It" (130 BPM), "Okay for Baby" (155 BPM) and "Celery Stalks At Midnight" (150 BPM). 
 
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (1998) 
Reviewed: 14 Aug. 1999. Ratings: ***½, L 
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OK, I admit, this was the first swing CD I bought after I got into dancing, because like many people, it was the first I'd heard of.  Since then I've learned to enjoy the lesser known swing bands, and older and jazzier music.   But I'm not embarrassed to admit I still like and play my BBVD CD, I think they are the best of the neo-swing bands.  They sizzle.  And their shows do, too.  But they aren't good for Lindying, with most songs either above 200 BPM or not swing.  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
 
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - This Beautiful Life (1999) 
Reviewed: 28 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: **½, L½
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The new BBVD CD has some of the energy and appeal of the first song.  Same tight horns and hard-driving beat.  And lead singer's Scotty Morris' voice still oozes with that attitude.  All said, I still like the first CD better.  The songs and the melodies just don't grab me as much as the first CD.  Like their first CD, there are no songs between 115 and 172 BPM, but unlike the first, 5 of the 11 songs are 115 BPM or less. 
 
Big Joe and the Dynaflows - I'm Still Swinging (Severn - 1998) 
Reviewed: 12 April 2002.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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Fun swinging jump blues.  The songs aren't complex but they have lots of energy.  A mix of originals and covers. Band includes sax, trumpet and trombone in addition to a screaming electric guitar.  Vibraphone and organ also make appearances.  Big Joe's voice is somewhat like the classic 50's blues shouters.
 
Big Time Operator - High Altitude Swing (1998) 
Reviewed: 14 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL
This is a band local to my city, San Diego, that are beginning to get national recognition.  And they deserve it.  They have a big-band sound and are tight.  The album has one excellent original, and lots of excellent covers, including four Cab Calloway covers.  BTO's website store.
 
Blue Room Boys - Mr. Jive's Pleasure Platter (1998) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLL
Out-of-print as of Aug. 2000
Another great band from San Francisco.  (I don't think SF should be allowed more than Indigo Swing and Lavay Smith).  These guys play well-done acoustic jazz swing, using a piano, restrained rhythm section, mellow guitar, clarinet and the usual horns.  My favorite is "Do Your Duty" (145 BPM).  The songs are mostly vocal songs, but they aren't afraid to give the instruments some serious solo room.  This is a quality recording, with good musicians.  I mostly like the vocalist, but some of her notes are a bit off-key sometimes.  Almost 68 minutes of music on this CD. 
 
Blue Room Boys - Driving You Crazy (2000) 
Reviewed: 21 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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Another excellent production from the Blue Room Boys.  More superb piano and guitar work from Michael McIntosh and Brian Kane, but all the musicians are excellent.  I like the color songs: "My Blue Heaven" (150 BPM), "Black and Tan Fantasy" (98 BPM) and groovy, occasionally dissonant "Blue Moon" (120 BPM).  Good version of "Good Queen Bess" (149 BPM), too.  A mix of instrumentals and vocals, a wide variety of tempos, and excellent singing and musicianship make this a good choice for any swing dancer looking for a good modern jazz swing band.
 
Blue Saracens - What's a Saracen? (1999) 
Reviewed: 26 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Another good band out of New York.  This nine-piece band plays authentic, jazzy swing on this 12-song CD.  Decent female vocalist, but a bit nasal, and she tends to overexaggerate her delivery.  Tight sound from the band.  Good solos.  A little too much drumming for my taste, particularly non-stop use of symbols during other band member's solos, every single solo, and I rarely notice the drums.  Lighten up on the symbols!  The songs are a mix of vocals and instrumentals, and a mix of originals and covers of Krupa, Goodman, and others. I would definitely go to see these guys if they came to town.  Except for two songs, tempos start at 165 BPM and go up from there.  I like "Oop Bop Sh'Bam" (165 BPM).
 
Blues Jumpers - Wheels Start Turning (1997) 
Reviewed: 14 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LL 
Out of print
Yes, the lead singer's voice sounds a little like Kermit-the-Frog, but, no problem, I like Kermit.  This is an excellent CD of jump blues covers, with excellent sound and solos.  Excellent piano and saxophone.  Its Lindy rating was hurt by lack of songs in the ideal Lindy range.
 
Blues Jumpers - Swingin' Holiday (1998) 
Reviewed: 24 Dec. 1999.  Ratings: **½, LL 
Out of print
Holiday songs by the Blues Jumpers.  Once again, no songs between 115 and 167 BPM.  Two non-swing songs, including a half polka, half fast swing "Rudolph". There's a couple songs I like a lot.  The band sounds good.  Only 35 minutes of music on this CD.  I recommend the Yule B Swingin', Swingin' Christmas, and the Ella Fitzgerald Wishes You a Swingin Christmas holiday CDs over this one.
 
Blues Jumpers with Haywood Gregory - Livin' Like a King (2001) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2001.  Ratings: **, LL 
The Blues Jumpers are back with a new lead singer.  My first impression was that this CD wasn't as good as their previous efforts, and I couldn't put my finger on the exact reason why.  So the first thing I checked was to see if the band was same.  In fact, comparing the liner notes from the Wheels Start Turning CD to this one, the only member in common is the drummer.  The press release notes, however, that guitarist Roues also wrote songs for the 1st CD.  This CD contains a mix of originals and jumpers.  The songs are solid jump blues played with lots of energy, but perhaps too much guitar.  The songs and the arrangements on the new CD are unimaginative.  The singer is good, but all-in-all the quality of the songs, singing, sound quality, and musicianship is less than Wheels Start Turning.  
 
Blues Swingers - Who's Yo' Daddy (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL½
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A great 1st CD by one of my favorite Chicago swing band, when I'm there.  This is a CD for dancers, by a true dancer's band.  I miss Chicago!  The singer is not in-your-face like other bands, a bit loungy occasionally, but basically pretty good.  The 9-person band is on fire, filled with hot Chicago musicians.  Songs are a mix of covers & originals.  The solos are so natural.  Can you believe a nine out of 16 songs in the prime range 120 to 150 BPM?  Too many songs based around the 12-bar blues, sounding the same.  There's a great "Corner Pocket" instrumental.
 
Claude Bolling Big Band - Cinemadreams (1996) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: **, L 
This is a collection of covers of songs from movies.   Lots of sappy instrumentals and vocals.  The Lindy song here is "Pink Panther" (122 BPM) which is so playful and fun.  Great version of it.
 
Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires - Not Just Visiting (1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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Bombay Jim is a 9-person swing band from Boston made up of long-time musicians, and the music shows it.  Tight, authentic swing.  Real jazz solos.  The songs are covers of standards, like "Minnie the Moocher", "Knock Me a Kiss", and "Goody-Goody".  I like their slow versions of "Caledonia" (134 BPM).  The male vocalist is decent, a lot better than a lot of bands.  Too many of the songs, (7 of 16) are greater than 190 BPM.  The song list include BPM, the signature of a true swing-dancers band.  They'd be a great band to dance to.
 
Johnny Boyd - Last Word In (Cliffdive - 2001) 
Reviewed: 17 March 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL
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On this CD, Johnny Boyd strikes out on his own, and in a different direction from Indigo Swing, where he was the lead singer.  I'm a big fan of Indigo Swing, and Johnny Boyd penned some of their best songs.  However, but I'm little disappointed in this CD.  I liked it more when Boyd's voice was just one of the instruments in the band.  In contrast, this CD is all about Johnny Boyd.  There is little room for the band to solo, there's little interesting music for the band to play, and there's none of that wonderful boogie-woogie piano rhythms that we loved from Indigo Swing. The band is mostly there to back up Boyd.  This is more of a CD featuring Boyd the crooner.  Not Boyd the front man for a swing band.  Included in this eclectic mix of 12 songs are two country songs, a Latin rhythm song, a gospel type song, a mariachi song, a few ballads, and a few swing songs.  A couple of the songs have string instrumental background.  I admire his effort to write songs outside of the 12-bar blues pattern.  It is 2001, after all.  Neo-Swing is dead.  But most of these songs just don't grab me, no matter what their style.  I don't mean to say this CD is bad.  Boyd's unique singing and songwriting skills are still very much in evidence.  The lyrics have depth. I really like the first song "Comin Home To You" (127 BPM), and I'm playing it regularly when I DJ.  The sentimental "Angie's Song" (112 BPM) is good, too, but the others just don't have the interesting melodies that make me perk up my ears.  However, compared to many of the albums I get from bands around the country, this CD is far more polished and interesting. I think fans of Johnny Boyd, the balladeer, will be pleased with this CD.  As long as they aren't looking for songs like Swing Lover, Regular Joe, Today's the Day, Another Day in LA, or even Ruby Mae. 
 
Will Bradley & His Orchestra - Beat Me Daddy to a Boogie Beat (Jasmine - 1999) 
Reviewed: 26 April 2003.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
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Will Bradley's orchestra was co-led by Ray McKinley and they are known for playing a lot of music in a boogie-woogie style.  Some of these songs are quite popular for dancing, like "Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four" (153 BPM) and "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat" (175 BPM).  There are a bunch of other fun songs.  Songs were recorded from 1939 to 1941.  A lot of the songs are vocals.  These are mostly pop songs designed for mass appeal, not serious jazz. 
 
Kyle Bronsdon - Kitchen Swing (Vitalegacy - 2003) 
Reviewed: 25 July 2003.  Ratings: **, LL½
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As part of Kearney, Grams & Bronsdon, Bronsdon has brought us some fun swing songs, including a few originals by members of the band.  However on this venture, Bronsdon has taken a bigger risk by recording an entire CD of original songs.  Some of duds and some are not, but I totally admire his determination to write new songs.  I've written a few songs and I know how hard it is.  However, the songs that Bronsdon and others have written for this effort don't engage me as much as the songs on the previous CDs. The melody lines are less interesting.   However, there's a fun fast song at the very beginning, "The St. Louis Vipers Club" (250 BPM) and a couple of slow non-swing songs at the end: "I'm a Player" and the instrumental "There are no words" that are quite moving.  Kearney & Grams play on the CD as well as well as a few others.  Keep writing, Kyle.
 
Kyle Bronsdon - Also see Kearney, Grams, and Bronsdon.
 
Hadda Brooks - I've Got News For You (Virgin Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 12 Nov. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL
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This is a double-CD of songs from this underrated R&B artist.  Songs were recorded from 1945 to 1998.  One of the CDs is called "Hadda Sings" and features her vocals, mostly ballads recorded from 1996 to 1998, when her voice was old-sounding, but still expressive.  I like "I Feel So Good" (131 BPM), from 1951.  The other CD is called "Hadda Swings", and features her on the piano playing some mean boogie-woogie tunes. All of them are instrumentals and many of the boogie-woogie blue songs sound similar, but they are still good.  And at the end, she plays a great "Rhapsody In Blue".
 
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Gate Swings (1997) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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This is a big band blues album by a classic blues guy.  These 13 songs really swing.  They are a mix of vocals and instrumentals, Brown originals and covers of Basie, Krupa, etc.  I definitely have a bias towards bands with a good swinging pianist, and this one has a great one.  It has excellent solos, which I like to listen to, and there is a lot of rhythm and interjections from the band in the background of many of the solos, which help keeps the dancing groove going.  Brown plays his electric guitar for many of the solos.  My favorites songs include the instrumental "Bits and Pieces" (150 BPM); it has plenty of hot music, repeating themes, breaks, dynamics--everything to make a great Lindy song.  I'm not crazy about Brown's voice, it doesn't seem to fit, sometimes.  All kinds of tempos on this album, 1 slow, 2 non-swing, 5 between 105 and 150 BPM, 3 greater than 230 BPM. 
 
James Brown - Please Please Please (Polygram  - 1996) 
Reviewed: 17 June 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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This album was originally released in 1959 and represents James Brown before he invented soul, and before he invented funk.  The songs have elements of soul and proto-funk, but they are still fundamentally simple swinging 50's R&B style songs.  But he still screams in that distinctive James Brown style!  And his singing style gives these simple songs the energy that makes them fun for dancing!   The saxophone solos are sweet.  I like "I Feel That Old Feeling Coming On" (144 BPM) and "Tell Me What I Did Wrong" (120 BPM).  There are a lot of slow songs on this CD, and a couple are good ones.   James Brown later CDs don't swing and aren't good for dancing, but every music lover should own James Brown "20 All Time Greatest Hits".  The heck with swing, get funky!
 
Les Brown, and His Great Vocalists - Best of The Big Bands (Columbia - 1995) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: *, L
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Lots of slow, romantic, cheesy, sweet, vocal big-band songs like "Sentimental Journey" and "I Got It Good".  Recorded 1941 to 1950, vocalists include Doris Day, Betty Bonney, Gordon Drake, and others.  The sound quality is surprisingly good!  But I can't stand sweet emetic big-band songs.  And if I dared to play this stuff for modern Lindy-Hop dancers,  I'd be lynched.  "Robin Hood" (126 BPM) is OK.
 
Oscar Brown Jr - Sin & Soul (Sony - 1996) 
Reviewed: 19 June 2002.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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Originally released in 1960 Sin & Soul was Oscar Brown Jr's first and best album.  Each song is so unique.   Brown's vocals and lyrics in many of the songs tell quite interesting stories.  Some have social commentary.  For dancing, "Signifying Monkey" (139 BPM) and "Humdrum Blues" (165 BPM) are fun. 
 
Les Brown - Session #55 (2001) 
Reviewed: 28 Dec. 2001.  Ratings: *, L
I had high expectations for this new CD.  But guest vocalists Jane Monheit and Lou Rawls cannot save this music.  This is cheesy pop big band music at its worst.  The songs are mostly strings of  musical clichés.  The arrangements of otherwise good songs are atrocious.  This music is not for self-respecting Lindy Hoppers, this music belongs on the Lawrence Welk show.  There are cute punchy horn interjections, cheesy melodies, an electric guitar bass, a drummer who doesn't swing, a scarcity of jazz solos, and overall very little about this music that I can find to like.  
 
The Ray Brown All Stars - Don't Forget the Blues (Concord Jazz - 1986) 
Reviewed: 4 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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Ray Brown plays bass and wrote a couple of the songs on this collection.  With Al Grey on trombone and Gene Harris is on piano and keyboards, how can you go wrong?  All stars indeed!  Ron Eschete on guitar and Grady Tate on drums complete the excellent band.  Their version of "Night Train" (122 BPM) is awesome!  Its a groovy jazz song with lots of breaks, and interesting solos. "Blues'd Out" (142 BPM) is the only other danceable song here.  The others are slow blues, with one super fast song.  Good listening, however.
 
Ray Brown Trio - Live from New York to Tokyo (Concord - 2003) 
Reviewed: 19 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: ****, L
This is a double-CD reprint of two late '80s albums, and this is great stuff.  Ray Brown is a supreme bass player and when he's playing with Gene Harris on piano, they swing like mad, with a little funkishness thrown in.   This is strictly piano jazz.  I didn't really find much for a Lindy Hopper on here, but maybe you will, if this is your thing.  Regardless, its damn fine jazz.  Actually, "Summertime" is awesome, but I already had it on the Gene Harris compilation.
 
Roy Brown - Blues Deluxe (Charly - 1991) 
Reviewed: 11 March 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½,
Out-of-print
I like this CD a lot and you can bet San Diego swing dancers will be hearing a lot of it as in the next few months. DJ Ron insists!  Roy Brown is a blues/R&B artist who scored some big hits during 1948-1951.  He is considered a blues shouter, like Wynonie Harris ("Keep on Churning"), who I also like a lot.  But I think the songs on this out-of-print import CD are better.  This CD has a lot of upbeat jump blues in the perfect Lindy range (145 to 170 BPM) with good lyrics, and catchy tunes. Yes, the songs are all simple 12-bar blues that can start to sound all the same (they already are).  But many of the songs have good dynamics and breaks that keep them interesting. The sound quality is pretty good.  This CD also has a lot of excellent slow blues (65 to 85 BPM).  They are the icing on the cake that makes me declare that he's now my favorite old-time male R&B artist, above Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn, Roy Milton, Joe/Jimmy Liggins and Joe Turner.  
 
Roy Brown - Good Rockin Tonight, the Best of Roy Brown (King/Rhino - 1994) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: **, LL
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This is a best-of collection, but disappointing to me in comparison to the above import collection.  The song quality on the first seven songs is sub-par because they were recorded earlier, from 1947 to 1950.  This collection includes his title track hit (made into a bigger hit by Wynonie Harris) and at least three songs just like it, with knock-off lyrics. Six songs are duplicated on the above collection, but many of the best songs on the other collection aren't found on this one!  This collection also has too many songs above the ideal Lindy tempo range.
 
Ruth Brown - Rockin in Rhythm (Best of) (1996) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL 
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Famous jump blues, jazz, and pop singer of the 50's, Ruth Brown has a powerful voice with this cute squeek.  A number of these songs have been covered by other swing bands, including Indigo Swing. Most of these are simple but good R&B songs.   I like this better than my Joe Liggins or Roy Milton collections.  There are 64 minutes of songs here with tempos from ballads up to 201 BPM, with many from 130 to 175 BPM. Great songs here include: "Teardrops from My Eyes" (138 BPM), "Wild, Wild, Young Men" (201 BPM), "As Long as I'm Moving" (175 BPM), and "I Want to do More" (175 BPM),
 
Ruth Brown - Miss Rhythm Greatest Hits and more (1989) 
Reviewed: 11 March 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
I loved the above Ruth Brown CD, so I bought this double-CD collection. I wish I hadn't.  Half of the songs are on the above CD, and the other half are uninspiring simple songs.  The good songs are all on the Rockin in Rhythm CD.  Buy that one instead.    
 
Ray Bryant - The Madison Time with a Hollywood Jazz Beat (Collectables/Sony - 1995) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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Recorded in the 60's, this CD has a number of groovy, moderate-tempo, instrumental tunes.  The song "The Madison Time" (136 BPM) was made famous in a zany dance sequence in the film Hairspray.  One version of this song actually has callouts for dance moves.  Two other good songs are "Centerpiece" (129 BPM) and "Split It" (148 BPM).  All are jazzy 12-bar blues based songs with lots of groovy solos, recorded in a small jazz group setting.  Another odd thing about this CD is that songs 10-21 are orchestral songs from movies, with Ray Bryant playing piano.  Not danceable and totally different from the others. 
 
Sam Burckhardt - Chicago Swing (Airway Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 13 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, L½
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This former member of Chicago swing bands the Mighty Blue Kings and the Big Swing, is an excellent saxophonist.  Here he's gotten some of the best jazz musicians in Chicago together to record a CD of instrumental songs, all written by Burckhardt.  The songs are modern jazz/blues songs that swing and some can be danced to, but I don't think he intends the band to be a swing dance band.  That's cool, but my reviews are directed towards swing dancers.  There's a number of songs too slow for dancing, and the rest don't make me want to move.  Fans of Burckhardt who want to get away from pop vocal jump blues and try some jazz might want to consider picking this one up.  The songs are interesting and the musicianship is excellent. 
 
Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue (Capitol - 1967) 
Reviewed: 29 April 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LL½ 
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Burrell plays guitar.  A jazz guitar like you've never heard before.  I didn't know an electric guitar could sound so expressive.  Its hard to believe that its the same instrument that can be used to such forceful effect by rock musicians.  In Burrell's hands, its the maker of moods--groovy moods where you want to sway and move your head slowly, not bang it against the wall.  With his minor key melodies, and the help of the other fine bass, saxophone, drums and conga musicians, he will transport you into another world. The late-night world of smooth groovy melodies and smooth groovy solos.  "Midnight Blue" (154 BPM) and "K Twist" (151 BPM) are the danceable songs, out of a total of nine.  There's also a lot of slow blues, and a waltz, of sorts.  "Saturday Night Blues" (92 BPM) (6:16) is an out-of-this-world blues song, too. This is one of Burrell's most popular and well-respected CDs and I think you will learn to love it too.  You couldn't imagine anything further from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy if you tried.  
 
Kenny Burrell - Introducing Kenny Burrell (Blue Note Records - 2000) 
Reviewed: 2 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L½
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I looked and listened to clips from other Kenny Burrell CDs in an attempt to find one as good as the above Midnight Blue.  I picked this one.  However, this double-CD collection of his early 1956 recordings was a half disapointment to me.  The solos seem to go on forever, and there's little cohesiveness to the music.  Burrell shows the same mastery of the guitar, but the mood just isn't the same.  Too many frantically fast songs.  I don't like the congas on Disk 1.  I have much better versions of the Moten Swing on Disk 2. I do like a lot of the blues on Disk 2. "K. B. Blues" (134 BPM) is danceable, but long at 6:20, with interminable solos.
 
Laverne Butler - Blues in the City (MaxJazz - 1999) 
Reviewed: 29 May 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL 
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Laverne Butler's voice soars and smooths.  Her singing gives unexpected depth to songs I thought I already knew.  This was a recommendation of DJ/instructor Paul Overton (see the links page).  This is fine modern jazz.  The backing jazz trio is excellent, providing just the right accents for each song.  I love "This Bitter Earth" (135 BPM) and "The Blues are Out of Town" (136 BPM).  Many of the rest of the songs are slow ballads. There's a bonus video song that you can see and hear if you put the CD in your computer and click on the .mpg file on the drive.
 
Laverne Butler - A Foolish Thing To Do (MaxJazz - 2001) 
Reviewed: 21 August 2001.  Ratings: ***, L 
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This is seriously mellow vocal jazz.  There's barely a song above walking tempo. Lots of romantic ballads, some with string orchestration. Five of the 12 songs aren't swing. The band is tight.  Piano, saxophone, drums, it all sounds great.  But there are some very random solos that I don't like.  But it is mostly easy on the ears.  Too easy.  There's maybe only one song I'd play for Lindy hop dancers, "Basin Street Blues" (106 BPM), but it has a long drum solo. 
 
Lesley Byers & The Jazz Cats - A Slick Chick (2001) 
Reviewed: 13 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: **½, LLL
When I lived in Chicago I went week after week to see the wonderfully dynamic Lesley Byers sing jump blues classics as part of the Rhythm Rockets.  Here she sings jazz classics and Lindy hopper favorites such as "Love Me or Leave Me", "Perdido", "Bli-Blip" and "Blue Skies".  The versions are good, but I prefer versions by Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and others.   Those version are hard to top!  This band is to be commended for covering these jazzy songs when its easier to cover the standard jump blues songs.  The jazz guitar player is excellent, his fingers seem to fly, and every note seems to fit the song.  The piano player is also good.  Lesley's singing is probably the highlight, but also occasionally the weakness of the band, and I can't figure out a way to say it better than that.  Tempos range from 55 up to 260 BPM with plenty in the ideal dancing range from 120 to 170 BPM.  

See www.lesleybyers.com for CD ordering information.

 

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