Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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CD Reviews - Artists - G

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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Slim Gaillard - Laughing in Rhythm, The Best of the Verve Years (1994) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at Amazon.com
Gaillard is known as a humorist, singing funny songs, or making up words.  The band is only a jazz combo, mostly.  Recorded 1947 to 1953 the recording noise ruins a lot of the enjoyment of about half of these songs for me.  This collection has "You Goofed" (135 BPM), "Yep-Roc-Heresay" (133 BPM), and best of all: "Potatoe Chips" (140 BPM).  "Chicken Rhythm" (160 BPM) makes me laugh out loud, with its chicken sounds, especially the chicken solo.   Some of these songs are different versions than the ones found on his earlier recordings.
 
  Slim Gaillard - 1945 Vol. 2 (1996) 
Reviewed: 8 Jan. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at Amazon.com
Many extremely low quality recordings here, since it was recorded in 1945, and I've heard that this label, Chronological Classics doesn't do any noise removal.  So we're left with lots of fuzz, but some of the songs are all right. Gaillards band's laid-back style is very suited to slower Lindy.  The band is just vocals, drums, piano, and guitar.  I like "Atomic Cocktail" (127 BPM), "Jumpin at the Record Shop" (127 BPM), "Groovy Juice Jive" (152 BPM) and I've heard other DJs play the bizarre "Yep-Roc-Heresay" (133 BPM).  Also contains the famous "Flat Foot Floogie" (175 BPM). Gaillard is groovy, no doubt.
 
Slim Gaillard - Slim's Jam (Topaz Jazz - 1997) 
Reviewed: 25 March 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
Out-of-print as of Aug. 2000
This Gaillard collection is pretty good, 69 minutes and 24 songs worth of his stuff recorded 1938 to 1946.  Some overlap with the above two collections.  Different versions of some of the same songs are on the Laughin in Rhythm collection.  Again, lots of songs with high noise and low dynamics.  Simple songs.  Contains "8, 9, 10" (189 BPM), "Jump Session" (167 BPM).  More songs where he makes up nonsense foreign language sounding words.  As usual, his tempos mostly range from 112 BPM to180 BPM.
 
Erroll Garner - Body & Soul (Columbia - 1991) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at Amazon.com
On these selections, Erroll Garner plays piano with a very quiet backing of bass and drums.  Songs were recorded in 1951 and 1952.  Garner shows technical mastery of the keyboard.  He plays fast and slow songs with equal skill.  He effortlessly improvises on the melody of such classics such as "Ain't She Sweet?" (145 BPM).   I'm amazed at Garner's ability to hang the melody way behind the beat with his right hand while his left hand sets a driving rhythm. Some Lindy-hoppers who like piano jazz will find lots to play with in some of the slower songs on the last 1/3 of the CD.   His steady left hand gives you the rhythm to come back to after you play with the melodies from his right hand.
 
Marvin Gaye - The Best of Vol. 1 (20th Century Masters) (Motown - 1999) 
Reviewed: 4 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at Amazon.com
Like everybody, I've heard "Heard It Through the Grapevine" about a million times.  But I had no idea that Marvin Gaye had so many other engaging songs.  And a number of these songs one can dance Lindy hop to. Starting with "Pride and Joy" (121 BPM), continuing to "Ain't That Peculiar" (163 BPM), and "How Sweet It Is" (113 BPM).  These songs (recorded during the 60's) don't have a swing beat, but many of them have a shuffle rhythm, and something, I think his voice, has a flowing, subtlely swinging style that, combined with the driving beat, makes me want to move.  As is typical with 20th Century Masters budget compilations, you only get a chintsy 31 minutes of music.  This is not jazz.  These songs are not complex.  There's no improvisation.  I imagine I'll get tired of the songs, but for now, I think they are a lot of fun!  They inspire a sense of joy.
 
George Gee & His Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra - Swingin' Live (1998) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: **, LLL 
See CD at Amazon.com
George Gee's New York band is red-hot.  Gee is delighted with the swing revival, and he wants you to dance.   Great live.  Lots of long, extended, random solos in some of these pieces, which I am personally not as fond of dancing to.  Or listening to.  And some of these pieces just don't grab my attention, they start to sound the same.  But this CD has great covers of "Blues for Stephanie" (145 BPM) and "Splanky" (135 BPM), the last is perfect for dancing and playing around with its great melody and great dynamics. 
 
George Gee & the Jump, Jive & Wailers - Buddha Boogie(1999) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL 
See CD at Amazon.com
I sure love them live, but man, I'm really having a hard time reviewing this CD and not being too negative.  This is "gritty, Basie-influenced swing" according to the liner notes.  I wish there was more of that and less "attitude and pop-influenced vocals".  Most of the songs are vocals, and I usually like vocals, but I don't like most of these. "Hamp's Boogie" (176 BPM) is good except for when George sings! (sorry, George!)    There are some originals on here, and they aren't great, except for "She's Never Satisfied" (140 BPM) which is good, and its also on the Hipsters... Vol. 3 compilation.   These originals aren't Basie-like at all.  I also wish they'd left the Basie/Williams songs alone. When left alone, the band sounds good, but there's still something unpolished about this CD.  It sounds live, even though it was recorded in the studio. The saxophones are whiney and weak sometimes, like there was a single mike and it was too far from them. Tempos are all over, evenly scattered from 70 to 220 BPM.  Darnit, I wanted to love this CD.  I still love them live.  I guess my expectations were too high.  Its still OK!  My favorite song is the instrumental "My Heart Stood Still" (143 BPM). "You're the Boss" (138 BPM) is OK, better than Setzer's version.
 
George Gee and his Make-Believe Ballroom Orchestra - Swingin' Away (1999) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL 
See CD at Amazon.com
Released right on the heels of Buddha Boogie, this is the better of the two by far.  This is a live album, recorded at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC for Frankie Manning's 85th birthday.  The cover picture shows a ballroom full of Lindy-Hoppers, Frankie's face on the CD, and lots of other pictures from the event.  The liner notes even detail the choreography for the Lindy Chorus and the Shim-Sham.  The songs list BPMs. Half from about 144 to 155 BPM and half mostly 184 to 205 BPM.  This album mostly contains live versions from the other two CDs, but they picked the best ones.  There are also two Sinatra songs and a few others not found on the other two CDs.  You can hear George at times screaming "Show me what you got!" and "I love it!"  Being live, this CD a little rough in spots, but by capturing the energy of the show, it more than makes up for it. I like "Every Day I Have the Blues" (130 BPM), a Basie/Williams cover that grooves very well, but at 6:05, its long.  Frankie calls the Shim Sham to "Stompin At the Savoy" at 172 BPM, (even faster than the Bill Elliott's "Shim Sham Song"!)
 
The Ray Gelato Giants - The Full Flavour (1995) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, L 
See CD at Amazon.com
This band is out of England and has a number of CDs.  He likes the standards and sings in the tradition of Prima, and plays a lot of Prima.  He writes some songs of his own, too.  Sound quality, and musicianship is excellent.  The sound is lounge-like jazz.  The pianist is particularly good.  For lots of reasons, these songs don't move me to swing.
 
The Ray Gelato Giants - The Men from Uncle (1998) 
Reviewed: 29 Nov. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL 
See CD at Amazon.com
If you like lounge-swing, this is probably the CD for you.  It's very well-done.  This is supposed to be the best of Ray Gelato's CDs, but I'm not the best judge, because I'm just not a fan of most lounge-swing.  There's a good variety of song tempos on this CD.
 
Steve Gibson - Boogie Woogie on a Saturday Night (Bear Records - 1994) 
Reviewed: 23 May 2002.  Ratings: ***, LLL
Out-of-print
This is delightful surprise.  Steve Gibson and the Five Red Caps was a band that played jump blues and novelty songs in the 50's.  Their songs are best described as "fun!"  Or maybe "goofy!"  They have fun lyrics, and the songs usually have really fun breaks for dancers to play with. Their songs are characterized by vocal harmonies, including a really distinctive low voice who must be Steve Gibson.  When I DJ, I regularly play "Big Game Hunter" (165 BPM) and "D'Eat Yet Joe" (147 BPM).  These are not complex songs, these are cute novelty songs.  But damn good ones!  
 
Dana Gillespie - Blues It Up (Ace Records - 1990) 
Reviewed: 30 Mar. 2003.  Ratings: ***, LLL
Dana Gillespie has recorded a lot of blues CDs, and continues to record.  On this CD, she covers a lot of the risque jump blues songs from the 50's. The originals found on the Risque Rhythm, Wynonie Harris and Julia Lee CDs, among others, are often better, but there are a few good versions on this CD.   She also has a few decent originals.  I think she would be a kick to see live.  The lyrics just sizzle!
 
Dizzy Gillespie - The Champ (Savoy Jazz - 1951) 
Reviewed: 28 Aug. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LLL
See CD at Amazon.com
Dizzy was one of the artists who started Bop.  This is pretty tame stuff, for Bop, and very approachable for a dancer.  There's lots of good, classically swinging, tunes here.  The songs were originally recorded in 1951.  There's only 36 minutes of music on this CD, 11 songs.  About half of the songs are vocals.  I like the non-vocal "Birk's Works" (142 BPM) and the vocal "Ooh-Shoo-Be-Doo-Bee" (139 BPM).  The artists who recorded on this CD read like an all-star line-up--they include J. J. Johnson, Budd Johnson, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Art Blakey, Joe Carroll and Stuff Smith. 
 
Benny Goodman - B.G. in Hi-Fi (Capitol - 1955) 
Reviewed: 15 Aug. 1999, revised 28 May 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL 
See CD at Amazon.com
This CD has really grown on me, and I'm not even a huge big-band jazz fan.  There's lots of the great classic swing songs, and they are so catchy I can't stop from whistling right along.  The musicianship is superb.  The sound fidelity of this CD is awesome.  Goodman shows his usual perfectionism.  There doesn't seem to be a note out of place, but the solos sound unforced and natural.  The sound between the different instruments well-balanced.  This CD includes re-recordings of many of the famous Benny Goodman songs, but with the dynamics and fidelity that only modern recording techniques can give.  This CD includes both songs from a big band group, and jazz combos, all instrumentals.   The jazz combo songs have some of the most interesting solos, but don't lend themselves well to dancing. There's a great mix of tempos, from 130 BPM, to a few blazing songs above 250 BPM.   I really like "Ain't Misbehavin'" (128 BPM), "Jersey Bounce" (135 BPM), "You Brought a New Kind of Love" (130 BPM), "Blue Lou" (210 BPM), "Jumpin at the Woodside" (250 BPM), "Stompin At the Savoy" (155 BPM), and "Sent For You Yesterday.." (155 BPM).   The list of my favorites is long, and I've played most of these when I DJ.  Definitely worth picking up!  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
 
Benny Goodman - The Best Of, The Capitol Years (1997)
Reviewed: 3 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at Amazon.com
More hi-fi swing from Goodman, again, both big-band and combo.  But too many combo songs--and to me, quiet piano, wire-brush drumming, and clarinet solos aren't the best for dancing. Goodman's clarinet playing is featured, of course, and it sounds as sweet as ever.  Mostly recorded 1947 to 1955, only a couple of the songs are repeats from the B.G. in Hi-Fi album reviewed above.  My favorite is the first song: "All the Cats Join In" (180 BPM) (also used as the soundtrack to a fun Disney cartoon).
 
Benny Goodman - Jazz Collector Edition (Laserlight - 1991) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: **, L
See CD at Amazon.com
Laserlight makes budget CDs.  This collection compiles many of Goodman's most famous big-band tunes and some non-so-famous ones.  These versions were apparently recorded as part of various radio broadcasts.  Sound quality is OK on a few of the songs, poor on others.
 
Benny Goodman - The Complete Capitol Trios (Capitol - 1999) 
Reviewed: 24 Dec. 2000.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at Amazon.com
These songs were recorded 1947 to 1954.  Goodman is masterful on clarinet, Teddy Wilson, Mel Powell and others sound great on piano, Jimmy Crawford and others on drums.  I think a big band makes for a fuller sound that is more fun to dancing to, but sometimes jazz trios can work.  These songs do make for fine listening.   The last two songs (of 20) are also on the B.G in Hi-Fi album.
 
Benny Goodman Sextet - Featuring Charlie Christian (Columbia - 1989) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 2001.  Ratings: ***, LL
See CD at Amazon.com
These 18 songs were recorded 1939 to 1941.  The Goodman Sextet lineup changes throughout the songs, but it mostly includes Lionel Hampton on vibraphone and Charlie Christian on electric guitar.   One thing I really like about this CD is that it doesn't have the same 20 big-band classics.  It has a whole different set of music better suited for a small group.  Some of the songs are swing classics, but re-arranged and given a new name.  The first half of this CD has a mellow feel, mostly because of Hampton's vibraphone, I think.  6 of the 18 songs are 100 BPM or below.  But, in contrast, a lot of the other songs swing hard, there's 8 above 174 BPM.  
 
Benny Goodman - Yale Archives Vol. 2 (Yale - 1988) 
Reviewed: 19 March 2003.  Ratings: ****, L
out-of-print
This is a collection of Goodman in a septet playing live versions of his classics in the 50's.  Goodman's playing is as sweet as I expected.  I love his extended playing and soloing on Honeysuckle Rose.  There's a number of fast songs on here, and its amazing how Goodman can sounds so melodic on these fast songs.  
 
Wycliff Gordon - Slidin' Home (Nagel-Heyer [German] - 1999) 
Reviewed: 2 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at Amazon.com
A little bit of everything on this CD.  Talk about an eclectic mix!  Gordon Wycliff plays trombone, and much of this music is all very modern jazz.  Long songs and often wildly  improvisational.  But there's one excellent uptempo punchy charleston tune, too.  There's also a great cha-cha tune, too, that turns into swing.  Sexy blues and quiet ballads, too.  I like his arrangement of "It Don't Mean a Thing" (150 BPM) except its length: 7.05!  Pretty random improvisations at times.  Not my style of jazz in general, but you might like it.  Contains a mix of originals and covers.  I like "Jolly Jume Jumey" (159 BPM) except its never ending (OK, 70 seconds) bass solo.  It gets old dancing to a long bass solo.  Interesting call and response between trombone and saxophone later in the same song, though. 
 
Benny Green - Testifyin'!, Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note Records - 1992) 
Reviewed: 12 August 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL
See CD at Amazon.com
This jazz trio's music is mostly a little too unpredictable for a swing dancer, but Green demonstrates an amazing mastery of the keyboard.  Green's compositions are involved and interesting.  "Down by the Riverside" (128 BPM) should be a delight to dancers and listeners, all 6:52 of it.
 
Al Grey - Grey's Mood (Definitive Black & Blue Sessions) (Black and Blue - 1998) 
Reviewed: 28 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***, L
See CD at Amazon.com
Al Grey played trombone with Basie, among others.  He often plays now with a plunger-mute, making his sound distinctive.  The leadoff song, "Face It Here It Is" (143 BPM) (5:03) is excellent for Lindying, I play it regularly when I DJ.  The other songs are too fast, too slow, or too long.  Songs were recorded in 1973 and 1975 in Paris. 
 
Al Grey - Me N' Jack (Pullen Music - 1996) 
Reviewed: 28 May 2001.  Ratings: ***, L
This modern jazz recording features Al Grey on trombone and Jack McDuff on Hammond B-3.  The first song is good for dancing: "Matza & Grits" (155 BPM).  A couple others have potential, but are too long.  These songs feature long, extended solos.  Good ones, though.
 
Al Grey - Also see J. J. Johnson and Al Grey
 

Copyright 1999-2003 by Ronald Bloom


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