Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Cab Calloway - Are You Hep to the Jive? (Sony - 1994) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLL½
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This is the only Cab Calloway collection you need to purchase.  Recorded during his prime, from 1939 to 1947, Cab sings his famously fun songs with his excellent big band backing him up.  If these songs don't make you smile, check your pulse.  Lots of songs here are covered by modern swing bands like Big Time Operator.  My favorites are "Everybody Eats When They Come to my House" (150 BPM), and "Are you Hep to the Jive?" (155 BPM).  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
 
New! Cab Calloway - With Chu Berry 1937/1944 (Jazz Archives/EPM - 2000) 
Reviewed: 9 Aug. 2003.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Calloway sings on only some of these songs, but most feature Chu Berry on tenor saxophone.  According to the liner notes Chu Berry was Cab Calloway's favorite musician and so he was often featured prominently.  I like "Queen Isabella" (183 BPM), "Tapping Off" (207 BPM) and "Penguin Swing" (202 BPM) or "Peck-a-Doodle-Do" (which is practically the same song) but there's a lot of other good (but fast) songs on this CD. But there's a number of less memorable ones, but they all have good energy.  Tempos are high, higher than on Are You Hep to the Jive? Sound quality is somewhat low.
 
Camaros - Evil  (1998) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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One of New York's best swing bands, this band has an original sound, self-described as "swingabilly".  It is fronted by two women, singing and harmonizing together, backed with horns and guitar.  They play originals written mostly by one of the lead singers, Jen Jones, and the lyrics are great. Like: "...no matter what dress I put on, I take it off alone. I'm too damn picky and too used to being on my own" from my favorite "Too Damned Picky" (145 BPM).  "It's fun, it's fun, to be a shameless hussy" from Shameless Hussy (145 BPM).  Good band. 
 
Camaros - Dangergirl (1999) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL 
This is an EP with only 6 songs, for 20 minutes of music.  But they are choice ones, displaying the same infectious energy and clever lyrics as on the Evil album.  A couple of the songs are quite rockabilly sounding.  The band is fronted by Jen Jones only, now.  Tempos are from 154 to 178 BPM.
 
New! Campus Five - Jammin' The Blues (Won Records - 2003) 
Reviewed: 21 June 2003.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
This septet out of LA plays great authentic small-group jazz from the swing era.  This CD is jam-packed full of good, danceable songs, and the Beat-Per-Minute of each song is listed on the back.  Its a dancer's delight, particularly if you prefer your swing on the faster side.    If you like dancing Balboa, you'll love this CD. Song tempos range from 104 to 231 BPM and average around 165 BPM.  The sound is decent, and the playing is fairly tight.  This band is similar in feel in many ways, but perhaps not as tight as Mora's Modern Rhythmists. (But they play music from an entirely different era than Mora's.) Jonathan Stout on guitar is excellent, whether he's helping drive the rhythm or playing a solo.  The piano and drums are also a delight to the ears.  Hilary Alexander provides decent vocals for a few of the songs, including a couple of Ella May Morse covers.  One of the things I like most about this CD is that they play songs that a lot of listeners won't be familar with.  They've mined our rich history of jazz for underappreciated gems by the likes of Goodman/Christian, Django Reinhardt, Lester Young, Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins.  Reading their website, you'll learn that Campus Five was founded by "two dedicated swing dancers and vintage lifestyle enthusiasts".  No wonder this CD is so appropriate for swing dancers!  This CD is well worth picking up, and the band is well worth seeing live. For CD-ordering info, see their website.  
 
Frank Capp Juggernaut - Play It Again Sam (Concord Records - 1997) 
Reviewed: 22 June 2002.  Ratings: **½, L½
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This CD features the arrangements of Sammy Nestico.  This band is late Basie-like.  If you like Nestico's arrangements, you may like this CD.  The musicianship is excellent. Really excellent! Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of Nestico or in general of the modern big-band style. It leaves me a little cold.  Lots of dynamics, lots of brass interjections, lots of flash, little in the way of an engaging melody or groove.  The solos are hot, though.  In my opinion, all of the songs are too fast, too slow, or too long for most Lindy-hop dancers to enjoy.
 
Joe Carroll - With the Ray Bryant Quintet (Sony - 2000) 
Reviewed: 2 Jan. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
A favorite of Lindy Hop DJs, for good reason.  This stuff totally swings, the songs are happy and high-energy, and there are great breaks for dancers to play with.  Better yet, most of the songs aren't ones you hear on every other jazz CD.  As of this writing this rare CD is only available as a Japanese import from Tower Record's on-line store.  Originally recorded in 1956. Carroll's singing is playful and his scatting is, um, original.  He doesn't always hit the right note, but you'll forgive him.  My favorite songs for dancing are: "Jump Ditty" (133 BPM), "Qu'est-Que-Ce" (135 BPM), and "Oo-Shoo-Bee-Doo-Be" (140 BPM).
 
Betty Carter - I Can't Help It  (MCA/GRP Records - 1976, 1992) 
Reviewed: 19 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
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Betty Carter's voice is very distinctive.  I agree with reviews I've read elsewhere that compare her voice and singing style to a saxophone.  She's considered a fine Bop vocalist, and this is a collection of 24 of her best songs.  Songs were recorded 1958 to 1960, and the song lengths average only about 2 1/2 minutes.  Song tempos range from ballad to blistering.  There's lots of great Lindyable songs here.  I like "By the Bend of the River" (152 BPM), "Foul Play" (146 BPM), and "Remember" (132 BPM).  She's backed by a large excellent jazz orchestra in almost all tracks. 
 
Eva Cassidy - Songbird (Blix Street - 1998) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ****, LL
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This woman has an incredible voice.  I bought it for the one excellent swing song, the jazzy gospel "Wade in the Water" (114 BPM).  Whenever I play this song when I DJ, people often come up to ask about it.  It is a genuine Lindy "hit".  Most people will love this song.  But I'm also impressed with the other non-danceable songs, like "Wayfaring Stranger", all I can say after listening to that song is "wow!".  This is a best-of collection of her songs, which were all recorded independently.   She's basically been discovered after her death at age 33 of cancer.  If you like acoustic guitar and beautiful, melancholy vocals, pick this one up. Other applicable adjectives: powerful, diverse, expressive, strong.
 
Eva Cassidy - Live at Blues Alley (Blix Street - 1996) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LLL
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Why did it take me a year to buy another Eva Cassidy album?  Stupidity.  Please, don't be as stupid as I was!  Pick this one up if you like soaring vocals, vocals that can move you to another place. This CD has 13 beautifully sung jazz and pop classics.  Four of the 13 songs on this CD are also on Songbird (where you can also find the Lindyhopper favorite "Wade in the Water").  This CD has more jazz songs and fewer ballads.  One reason I've read that Cassidy didn't make it big when she was alive was that she didn't sing in just one genre.  But I like the mix of both pop and jazz songs.  I even like the funky version of the Talking Head's "Take Me to the River".  Lots of good danceable songs on this CD, including "Fine and Mellow" (133 BPM), "Honeysuckle Rose" (131 BPM), and "Cheek to Cheek" (172 BPM).  Great backup band for these songs, complete with excellent solos by the piano and guitar players.  I'm not a professional reviewer and I just can't find words to describe Eva Cassidy's voice.  So let me quote from Amazon.com's review of this CD: "..Cassidy's mix of aching clarity and rich warmth has a melting quality..."
 
Cats and the Fiddle - Hep Cat's Swing (1941-1946 Complete Recordings Vol. 2) (Dee-Jay 1999) 
Reviewed: 30 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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This is great stuff!  The sound quality of many of the songs is horrendous.  This band has a unique, groovy early sound.  The rhythm is kept by a acoustic rhythm guitar and a bass (no drums or horns in this band!), and the vocals are usually 3-part harmony.  Two-thirds of the songs are slow yucky ballads.  The other third are upbeat tunes.  I like "Stomp Stomp" (200 BPM), and "Lawdy Clawdy" (150 BPM).  The band Jellyroll covers some of these gems. 
 
Ray Charles - Genius+Soul=Jazz & My Kind of Jazz (Rhino - 1997) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **½, L
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Ray Charles was looking for a way to challenge himself when he recorded Genius+Soul=Jazz in 1961.  He had plenty of hits, so his label let him do a Big Band jazz album. The only two vocal songs on the album, both featuring Ray Charles, are great, but they are slow. The rest of the songs feature the big band, with Ray Charles on organ.  When the big band dominates, and the organ is limited to an occasional solo, it sounds OK.   But when the organ dominates, the song sucks.   The 2nd of two albums combined together here, My Kind of Jazz, doesn't swing much.
 
Ray Charles - The Best of Ray Charles The Atlantic Years (Atlantic/Rhino - 1994) 
Reviewed: 7 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
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This album is cool!  Great R&B songs.  Elements of gospel and soul.  Songs were recorded between 1952 and 1959.  A lot of the slow blues tunes are choice.  I suppose most people wouldn't think of this as swing dancing music, and it isn't really, but there's a couple that will do. Besides, they are a refreshing change from the usual swing fare.  Soul swing!  Try, it, you'll like it!  Great vocals and great sax. Be prepared for lots of breaks.  Many songs have so many breaks they are undanceable.  Of the swing songs, only two are above 132 BPM.  Besides the slow songs, I like to spin "Ain't That Love" (119 BPM) and "Swanee River Rock" (132 BPM) when I DJ. But "Night Time is the Right Time" (78 BPM) is so unbelievably groovy that I want to play it over and over, screaming "Hallelujah, Ray!"
 
Ray Charles - The Best Of  (Atlantic - 1970) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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Ray Charles recorded a wide variety of material.  This "best-of" is based on his small-group jazz work.  It contains no vocals, and no organ. You wouldn't guess it was a Ray Charles CD.  Recorded 1956-1958, Ray Charles plays piano and occasionally sax.  This CD only has 6 songs totaling 34 minutes.  However, two are slow blues and one is a waltz.  The key Lindy song on here is "Rockhouse" (124 BPM), a groovy 12-bar blues instrumental, featuring piano, a swinging bass line, and punchy brass accents.
 
Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music  (Rhino - 1988) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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Country and Western?  "What kind of swing is Ron getting into now?" you may be asking yourself.  Yes, many of the songs are sappy ballads, with string arrangements, angelic chorus, and all.  But there are a number of gems on here, too.  Swinging jazz arrangements.  A tight big band.  Ray's sweet voice. "Just a Little Lovin" (127 BPM) is a fun song.  It swings quite nicely. I can't even tell its based on a country song. "Bye Bye Love" (194 BPM) is good, too.  By the way, this album is famous.  Released in 1962, it remained on Billboard's pop album chart for nearly two years. It is one more example of Charles' genius. His version of "You Are My Sunshine" (133 BPM) doesn't truly swing for half of it, but I don't care, it makes me want to move--I'm going to have to play it sometime when I DJ and see what happens. It's a great song.  The slow songs with big band backing are very nice on the ear, as well.
 
Ray Charles - The Great Ray Charles  (Atlantic - 1987) 
Reviewed: 3 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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The CD highlights Ray Charles, the jazz musician.  There's no singing on this CD, just a lot of Ray playing fine blues on his piano, with equally fine music being made by the other band members, especially the sax and trumpets. Songs were recorded in the late 50's. This CD is similar to the 1970 "Best Of" Atlantic CD reviewed above, and there's two songs in common.  This collection has a full 65 minutes of music.  I like "The Ray" (131 BPM), and "My Melancholy Baby" (127 BPM).  There's a lot of other good, laid-back, swinging small-group songs.  Lots of interesting musical patterns and solos for a skilled dancer to play with.  But too many slow songs hurt the Lindy rating.
 
Ray Charles - The Birth of Soul (Atlantic - 1991) 
Reviewed: 3 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LLL½
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As many CDs as I buy, I don't usually buy box sets.  Especially when I already own 1/3 of the songs because they are on the Best of Ray Charles Atlantic Years CD reviewed above.  But I made an exception for the great Ray Charles, as there were songs on this compilation I couldn't get elsewhere, and I've learned that Ray Charles' early stuff is dynamite.  I was not disappointed. There's 3 CDs in this set, 1952-1954, 1954-1957 and 1957-1959.  When Ray Charles was in his prime!  Especially compared to much of the substandard music that I listen to, where I struggle to pick out one or two good songs, Ray Charles' music is sweet pleasure to listen to.  Not many of the songs are suitable for swing dancing, and those that are, have more of a shuffle rhythm.  There are also a number of great slow blues songs if that's what you are into like "I Had a Dream" (71 BPM).  Some of the songs on the first CD show Charles singing like Charles Brown, others are all his own style.  "Roll With My Baby" (128 BPM) is a great swinging song from the 1st CD, not exactly in Ray Charles standard style, but its awesome.  Good breaks.  The fun instrumental Lindy song "Rockhouse" is also included in this boxset.
 
Chazz Cats - Roadhouse Swing (1996) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug.1999.  Ratings: **, L
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This band is from the Bay area, and they do acoustic swing, and is the only swing band I know with a Mandolin.  And a fiddle.  Call it bluegrass swing, maybe, but they definitely have a sound all to their own.  The lead vocalist is excellent.  This CD has the usual problem with songs being too fast or too slow.
 
Chazz Cats - E. Swingus Vitus (1999) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999. Ratings: ***, LL½
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The 1999 release from the unconventional swing band, playing more bluegrass swing.  The cover art shows a painting of two bearded, jeans-wearing geezers dancing together in an old bar.  This CD is better than their first, more excellent vocals from D'Lilah Monroe, but I'm still having a hard time getting over the mandolin. This album has lots of decent covers, like "Choo Choo Ch'boogie" and "Why Don't You Do Right?" and the clever "Thirteen Men" (155), which is a favorite song of the crowd I DJ to.  And some great lyrics on their originals.  This album is growing on me.
 
Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham - Sweet Baby Blues (Concord Jazz - 1985) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: *****, L 
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I love these guys!!  They play swinging, jazzy blues.  This CD is mostly slower blues, there's only one fast song, "Roll 'Em Pete" (210 BPM), the rest are 41 to 106 BPM.  But man do they know how to play the blues!  Singer Jeannie Cheatham's voice is wonderful, powerful.  The band is fantastic, Jimmy Cheatham's solos on the bass trombone are magic to the ears.  Jeannie plays a mean piano.  The rest of the band is equally as good, providing full backing sounds in a nice wide variety of ways, and with consistently incredible saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet solos.  Even a tuba solo.  If you like to blues dance, this is THE disk to buy (one L, but five B's!).  If you appreciate fine jazz, buy it.  The song "I Got a Mind to Ramble" (77 BPM) is awesome, with its great solos, powerful crescendos, fun breaks, and Jeannie's growling, oh-so-expressive singing.  This CD also contains their song "Boogie with Your Black Drawers On" (103 BPM).
 
Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham - Basketful of Blues (Concord Jazz - 1992) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2000.  Ratings: ****½, L½ 
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More excellent slow and uptempo swinging blues by the Cheathams.  Once again, an excellent band of top-notch musicians putting out excellent music.  I had no idea instrumental solos could express so much!  But listen to the solos on "Heaven or Hell Blues" (62 BPM).  With the drums, bass and piano languidly driving the song along.  You can just feel the blues.  But with the Cheathams, the blues feels oh-so-good.  You just have to move your body back and forth.  Lots of long songs here.
 
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham - Blues and Boogie Masters (Concord Jazz - 1993) 
Reviewed: 27 June 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
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The Cheathams once again show everyone that you don't have to play the guitar to make great blues.  This CD has 3 songs around 125 BPM, and one at 187 BPM, so its better for Lindy than the two I reviewed above, but the songs and the solos don't seem as interesting to me musically. 
 
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham - Midnight Mama (Concord Jazz - 1986) 
Reviewed: 28 June 2000.  Ratings: ****½, LLL 
Another excellent swinging blues album by the Cheathams.  This one has a mix of tempos: 174, 110, 85, 275, 67, 89, 133, 56, and 123 BPM.  Perfectly balanced sound.  Powerful, emotional vocals by Jeannie.  Lots of interesting solos.  I really like "Piney Brown" (89 BPM), "Finance Company Blues" (133 BPM), and "How Long Blues" (56 BPM).
 
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham - Luv in the Afternoon (Concord Jazz - 1990) 
Reviewed: 28 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL
Out-of-print
More great blues from the Cheathams.  I really like "Comin' Back to South Chicago" (140 BPM).  "Gatemouth Brown" and his guitar make a guest appearance on this and a few other songs.  As usual, a mix of originals and covers.  Almost all their songs are 5-7 minutes long. 
 
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham - Gud Nuz Blues (Concord Jazz - 1996) 
Reviewed: 26 May 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL
This, from 1996, is the Cheathams latest CD.  Jeannie's voice might be getting a bit more ragged, but the playing is still excellent.  Cool bass clarinet and clarinet solos in "Low Line Blues" (62 BPM).  "The Shop-O-Holic" (132 BPM) is a good song for Lindy.
 
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham - Homeward Bound (Concord Jazzs - 1987) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: **½, LL
I was a little disappointed in this CD, the solos seemed less smooth, and the songs, less interesting.  "Daddy-O" (147 BPM) is good for dancing. 
 
Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot (1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: *½, L
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The song "Zoot Suit Riot"(180 BPM)  made the crossover into pop and was a big hit, and its not a bad song, but I lost my interest in dancing to it pretty quickly.  The rest of this CD by this punk/ska/swing band isn't that interesting to listen to or dance to, unfortunately.  A lot of it is too fast and frantic.  Tempos change mid-song.  The band is more of a rock band, really, and not a dance band, as lead singer Perry admits.  It takes more than a horn section for a band to be called "swing". The guy's voice really annoys me.  And this is the band that many associate with swing, and the band that is copied by so many others trying to jump on the neo-swing bandwagon.  Oh well. It was torture listening to it again for this review.  I'm so glad that's over. 
 
Charlie Christian - The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Columbia - 1987) 
Reviewed: 11 June 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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Originally recorded in 1939 to 1941, these are Benny Goodman's sextet songs that have been rereleased as collections of songs where you can hear Charlie Christian.  He didn't record much before he died at age 25, but his influence is huge.  He pioneered the use of amplified guitar and did it with distinctive style and skill.   The songs are awesome, and I'm not normally a huge fan of 40's Swing music.  But these songs are light and playful, and the solos are amazing, and not just Christian's solos.  Also featured during various songs are Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, Basie on piano, Cootie Williams on trumpet, Georgie Auld on tenor saxophone, and of course, Benny Goodman.  "Till Tom Special" (173 BPM) soars. The sound quality of the entire CD is surprisingly good.  Its probably just that small groups sound better given the limited fidelity of the recording methods back then.   Most of the songs are fast, above 175 BPM.  I love how many of the songs build up in volume at the end of the song.
 
City Rhythm Orchestra - Strikes Again (Limehouse Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 18 March 2001.  Ratings: **, LL
If you like the modern swing sound, you would probably like this band from Philadelphia--they do it very well.  Their songs are filled with energy and pushed with driving swing rhythms.  The horns pack a lot of punch.  This is their second (of three) CDs.  It contains 17 songs, standards like "Hit the Road Jack", "Dig that Crazy Chick", "Caldonia", "Is You Is", "Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" plus a few originals.  A variety of vocalists sings the songs well, but they do it with exaggerated delivery, not one of my favorite styles.  The bass is electric, not string.  The arrangements are good, and I'm sure they put on a great show, but the overall effect is a little too modern and slick for my tastes.  The horn interjections are relentless.  Tempos average 170 BPM, a little too fast for my Lindy ratings.  They play most of the originals faster than the original.  When I DJ I do play modern bands covering classic swing songs, but I'm unlikely to play these versions, with the exception of "The Mooche" (119 BPM) which is their slowest song and has no vocals and good solos.   
 
Clovers - The Very Best Of (Rhino - 1998) 
Reviewed: 4 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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There's a lot of Lindyable songs on this CD by this 50's doo-wop band.  The songs are simple and cute.  I like "Hey, Miss Fannie" (167 BPM), "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash" (139 BPM) and the semi-latin rhythm "Love Potion No. 9" (131 BPM). 
 
Freddy Cole - Merry Go Round (Telarc - 2000) 
Reviewed: 24 Dec. 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL
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Freddy Cole is a crooner and a pianist, and most of these songs are ballads and other slow sleepy songs.  The first song, "Watching Me Watching You" (131 BPM) is an excellent laid-back swinging song that Steven Mitchell taught with recently.  But at 6:45, its a little long.   
 
Holly Cole - Temptation (Metro Blue - 1995) 
Reviewed: 19 May 2002.  Ratings: **½, L
Holly Cole sings music that is hard to classify.  There's some jazz songs, many melancholy ballads, and a little bit of everything else.  The music is very laid-back.  "Little Boy Blue" (134 BPM) swings is a very mellow groovy way.
 
Nat King Cole Trio - Hit that Jive, Jack (1996) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, L
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This CD was compiled from material recorded from 1936 to 1941.  Before Nat King Cole became a crooner he was quite a jazz pianist, and this CD captures his very earliest stuff, done in a trio, the other instruments being a bass and a guitar.  These are fun little songs--some covers, some originals.  The three musicians, playing piano, bass and guitar, play off each other well.  The vocals swing.  But most of the songs are too sparse and fast for my dancing tastes.  The ballads are so sweet.
 
Nat King Cole - Greatest Hits (1994) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: **½, LL
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Most of this CD is filled with crappy Ballad's-From-Hell.  You know what I mean.  They start with a string orchestra, flutes and sappy angelic-sounding background singers and get worse from there.   But I got the CD for his few choice songs mostly recorded from 1943 to 1951 when he still knew how to swing, including "Get Your Kicks on Route 66" (140 BPM), Orange Colored Sky (135 BPM), "Walking My Baby Back Home" (115 BPM), and "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (165 BPM). These are good.  The rest of the CD is vomit-inducing.  I don't know how to rate this CD.
 
Nat King Cole - Big Band Cole (1991) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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I picked this CD up used.  I had hopes that it contained less vomit-inducing ballads than the songs in his greatest hits collection.  And I was right.  I think his songs, even slow ballads, accompanied by a jazz big band sound so much better than a string orchestra.  Two-thirds of the songs are Basie's band (without Basie) and the rest are Stan Kenton's band.  Tempos hover around 70 to 80 BPM for the ballads, lots at 125 to 140 BPM, a couple very fast, and a couple Latin rhythm.  Recorded at different sessions from 1950 to 1960.  These songs swing.  He still sounds a little bit like a crooner, though, so smooth.
 
Nat King Cole - Jazz Encounters (Capitol  - 1992) 
Reviewed: 11 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L½
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Per the liner notes: "This collection gathers together Nat Cole's various collaborations and all-star sessions for Capitol during the forties when his trio was one of the most unique and popular forces in both jazz and pop."  Included are a lot of bebop instrumentals and light rhythm songs not really suitable for dancing.  Cole is heard clearly as he masterfully tickles the piano keys in most songs, and in vocal duets in about half of the songs.  Cole sings a nice duet with Nellie Lutcher on "For You My Love" (144 BPM) (also found on the Jump 'n Jive collection.) And there's a nice duet with Johnny Mercer "My Baby Likes to Be-Bop" (140 BPM).  There are some nice songs with Kay Starr.  Other songs feature Jo Stafford.  Sound quality isn't great.  There's a good mix of tempos. 
 
Nat King Cole - After Midnight (Capitol Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 4 Jan. 2002.  Ratings: ****½, LL½
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In 1956 Nat King Cole recorded this album and showed everyone that he could still play jazz.  These songs don't have any of the sappy orchestration that destroys his many pop recordings.  This is excellent small-group jazz, complete with awesome jazz solos.  The feel is still very mellow, however, and the album is best played After Midnight.  Cole on piano is variously accompanied by John Collins on guitar, Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet, Willie Smith on sax, and Stuff Smith on violin, among others.  I'm not a big ballad fan, but Cole's ballads are appealing, with the backing of master jazz musicians, as well as Cole's own masterful piano playing.  Best for dancing is "I Was a Little Too Lonely" (142 BPM) and "It is Only a Paper Moon" (174 BPM).
 
Natalie Cole - Unforgettable (1991) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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A popular favorite, this is Natalie's tribute to her father, Nat King Cole.  Her "Route 66" (155 BPM) and "Orange Colored Sky" (125 BPM) versions are good.  She covers a few more of the swinging Cole songs, but the rest are those ballads, complete with string orchestra, that are almost as vomit-inducing as the originals.
 
Albert Collins - Cold Snap (1986) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL
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This is one of the modern blues CDs I have in my collection where a couple of the songs can be swung to, if you don't mind screaming guitar solos, or the occasional organ solo. 
 
Concord Jazz All-Stars with Ernestine Anderson  - Ow! (Concord Jazz - 1988) 
Reviewed: 18 Dec. 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL
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This was recorded live at a jazz festival in Japan in 1987 and features a lot of great jazz artists who record for Concord.  The song "I Love Being Here With You" (135 BPM) is excellent, but also on Ernestine Anderson's Concord Jazz Heritage Series CD.  "Down Home Blues" (112 BPM) is good. The rest of the songs are non-vocals and feature some excellent jazz soloing.  
 
Peggy Cone and the Central Park Stompers - Peggy Cone and the Central Park Stompers (1999) 
Reviewed: 24 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: **½, LL
Out-of-print as of Aug. 2000
Worth seeing if they come to town, this NYC band and singer sound good.  The CD is basically a demo CD, only 20 minutes long.  The six songs are covers.  Authentic swing sound.  The band displays all the qualities of a good tight band, including a good balance of sound.  The tempos are 160 BPM and up.  The lead singer is a Lindy-hopper herself.  There's nothing really wrong with this CD, but there is nothing really distinctive about it, either.  Maybe it just doesn't have an edge, whatever that means.  I think I've been listening to too many swing CDs recently.
 
  Peggy Cone and the Central Park Stompers - Bad Girl Shoes (2000) 
Reviewed: 2 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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You gotta love "Bad Girl Shoes" (152 BPM): " ... when I'm feeling blue ... I go shopping, go shoe shopping, I'm dropping all my money on another pair of bad girl shoes.." and ".. I put my new shoes on, he gets so excited we make love til dawn..."  Its a fun, danceable song with interest breaks.  In general, these are light-hearted pop swing songs delivered with vocal punch.  Good mix of tempos for the other songs, from 103 to 218 BPM, evenly mixed.  Some of the songs are originals. 
 
Chris Connor - Warm Cool, The Atlantic Years  (32Jazz - 1999) 
Reviewed: 2 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **, L½
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This double-CD collection has one of the best Lindy songs I've heard in quite a while, and that song is "Summertime" (150 BPM).  Steve Mitchell was teaching with this song at Swingout Northwest 2000.  This song has 3:13 of the best music you've ever done a 1-2-triplestep-5-6-triplestep to, complete with a great loud to soft dynamic change right in the middle.  But most of the rest of the 150 other minutes in this collection are ballads, and, I can't help it, I'm biased against ballads.  Especially the ones with string orchestras.  There's a good version of "Kansas City" (144 BPM), with a solid big band backing.  But other than that, the CD isn't going to appeal to swing dancers like me.  Connor used to sing in the Stan Kenton band.  She has a so-called "cool" tone, meaning without a lot of vibrato.  These songs were recorded in the late 50's and early 60's. 
 
Harry Connick Jr. - Come by Me (1999) 
Reviewed: 16 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, L
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This is supposed to be a big-band album, but many of the songs don't feature the big-band, but his orchestra.  Most of the big-band songs aren't swing. Big-band does not equal swing, this album being a prime example.    He sure plays a mean piano on the title track, though.  He has quite the crooning Sinatra-ish voice.  
 
Harry Connick, Jr. - We Are In Love (Columbia - 1990) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, L
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I think all of his stuff is pretty cheesy, but I know a lot of people totally love his style of cheese.  I don't know how to rate stuff I don't like, even it its well-done cheese.  Lots of slow orchestral stuff turns me off.  "Recipe For Love" (141 BPM) might be danceable, after its screwy intro. 
 
Harry Connick, Jr. - When Harry Met Sally... Music from the Motion Picture (Columbia - 1989) 
Reviewed: 25 April 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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Harry made it big with this CD of arrangements of classic songs for the hit film.  It all sounds pretty good, even the vocal stuff.  A couple of the songs swing, with an excellent big-band as backup. "It Had to Be You" (130 BPM) swings quite nicely.  And after a slow start, so does "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (121 BPM).  A couple other songs don't swing, or feature just him and his piano.  Even his version of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" (130 BPM) isn't half bad!
 
Carla Cook - Dem Bones (MaxJazz - 2001) 
Reviewed: 31 August 2001.  Ratings: ***, L
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Carla Cook sang for George Gee's band.  This isn't anything like that, but I'm digging it.  There's a cool funky version of "Ode to Billie Joe" here that gets my attention, as well as an original hip-hop "Dem Bones" (175 BPM), which I have played for Lindy-hoppers, but I fade it out early.  There's a lot of other interesting music by this lovely singer, an incredible variety of styles.  But not a lot of swing music for swing dancers.  Her voice is oh-so-smooth, effortlessly sailing thru the songs.  Some of the songs are Carla Cook originals.  
 
Cool Blue - Cool Blue  (1990) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, L½
I love this band!  The CD doesn't do them complete justice.  This is a CD by a southern California jazz group that a few of us have danced to.  We go out to a dinner jazz club to eat, drink and dance a few tunes. To like Cool Blue you have to like jazz, and you have to like the small-group jazz sound.  And I mean small.  On the CD, its just vocals, piano and bass.  Live, they also have a percussionist.  The musicianship is superb.  But the vocalist, Ruby, is wonderful.  Understated, languid, sexy.  Every note is perfect.  She scats wonderfully.  I'll spin a couple of these songs for the right dancing crowd.  Best is "One Mint Julep" (111 BPM).  Most of the song tempos are under 125 BPM.
 
Corner Pocket - Easy Does It (2001) 
Reviewed: 5 August 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
This band is, in some sense, the ultimate dancer's band.  It is composed of two Lindy Hop dancers playing Lindy Hop dancer's favorite songs at Lindy Hop dances.  It is no surprise this CD is excellent for Lindy Hop dancing!  Toronto dancers Solomon Douglas and Chris Arcand play piano and bass on this live recording.  The songs include Easy Does It, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Perdido, Things Ain't What They Used to Be, Corner Pocket, Blues for Stephanie, In a Mellow Tone, All of Me, and Stompin' at the Savoy.  If you are a Lindy Hop dancer, you've probably danced to those excellent songs many times.  Corner Pocket does these classic songs justice, finding just the right groove for each song.  The tempos range from 93 to 182 BPM, averging around 130 BPM, which is perfect for most of us dancers.  Songs average about 4 minutes in length. After the melody is introduced, Solomon improvises freely around the classic jazz chords.  The improvisations in some of the songs like "In a Mellow Tone" get a little too far out there for my preference, but most are good, and Solomon makes sure to get back to the melody eventually.  The semi-frequent mis-struck notes aren't too annoying. A band composed of just a piano and bass is not going to appeal to every dancer.  Songs like "Corner Pocket" and "Blues for Stephanie" can sound a lot better, at least to me, when the key musical phrases and big crescendos pack a lot more punch than a piano and bass can muster.  But the band plays perfectly good versions of these songs, and the song's dynamics are still there.  This CD is certain to appeal to Savoy style Lindy Hop dancers who also enjoy piano jazz by Oscar Peterson and others.  Its definitely worth adding to your collection.  To obtain this CD, contact Solomon at srcd@alum.mit.edu
 
Crescent City Maulers - Screamin' (1997)
Reviewed: 4 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: ½, ½
Don't bother
This four-person band from New Jersey has lots of energy, but that's it.  The single saxophone has a weak sound, the drums overpowering, the singing overdone in attitude, underdone in quality.  The backup vocals are weak and off-key.  The band does only covers, and I don't think I've heard a worse cover of "Jump, Jive & Wail" (205 BPM).  And his babbling version of "5 Weeks" (205 BPM) is equally awful.  This band probably appeals most to people who don't otherwise like swing.  Most of the songs are greater than 175 BPM, no surprise.  The energy of their fast songs might make them mildly entertaining to watch live.  If you are drunk. This album wins my award for worst swing album in my collection, as of the review date.  They'll be hard to beat. Released in 1997, this band was ahead of the swing craze, got to give them that. 
 
The Tom Cunningham Orchestra - All The Cats Join In (1995) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: *½, L½
This is the second release from a Washington DC band that loves to play for swing dancers.  It's an ambitious attempt to cover classic big band songs.  However, the results are unimpressive.  The band sounds good in many of the tracks, a bit out-of-sync and amateur in others.  The vocals are weak.  Particularly "All The Cats Join In" and "Drum Boogie".  The attempt to duplicate the original spoken interchange between O'Day and Eldridge at the start of "Let Me Off Uptown" is very lame.  This band would probably be great to see and dance to.  Covering big-band arrangements well is extremely difficult and they should be applauded for keeping the classic big-band tradition alive.  Many of the song tempos are fast.
 

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