Ron's Swing CD Reviews


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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

 
Candye Kane - Swango (Sire Records - 1998) 
Reviewed: 13 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL½
San Diego's Candye Kane is a big-bosumed swing and blues singer.  Her background story is about as interesting as it gets (stripper turned performer), but her voice, her songwriting, and her performance are what captures the imagination.  Her voice is big and expressive, the lyrics assertive, and her shows are not to be missed.  This, her 4th CD, contains swing songs, but also do-wop ballads and blues and country-western songs, as well as the title track tango song.  Not a band to be labeled and put in a box!   Swing highlights on this CD are her originals, the high-octane "200 Lbs of Fun" (200 BPM) and the groovy "Poetry Cocktail" (128 BPM).  The band is really excellent, top-notch.  The sound on this CD is well-balanced and clean.
 
Kearney, Grams, and Bronsdon - Nine Waters, No Tip (2000) 
Reviewed: 28 June 2000.  Ratings: ***, LLL½ 
This band knows what swing dancers want! You can tell by the tempos, mostly ranging from 126 to 190 BPM, the interesting musical breaks, and by the title track "Nine Waters, No Tip" (170 BPM)!  They know dancers!  The band is a 3-member jazz trio out of Arizona, with former members of Kings of Pleasure.  They play tight music, a mix of originals and covers.  Piano, bass, drums.  No guitars allowed!  Many of the songs feature close vocal harmony, something few bands attempt.  Some of the singing is a bit ragged, but I've heard a lot worse.   Sweet piano playing in "Blues for Pete" (151 BPM).  This band is definitely worth checking out.
 
Kearney, Grams, and Bronsdon - To Go (Vitalegacy - 2001) 
Reviewed: 25 May 2002.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
More fun swing from this Arizona jazz trio.  The singing is quite ragged in certain songs, but the songs are well-played, danceable, and above all, fun.  You need look no farther than the title of their last album Nine Waters, No Tip for proof that this band knows dancers.   The band consists of Kearney on piano, Grams on bass and Bronsdon on drums.  The band members bring a sense of humour to their songs.  I like "Yum Yum Yum" (143 BPM) and "Do Me a Favour" (139 BPM).  "Do Me A Favour" is a request from a guy for his gal to "jump---off---the Brooklyn Bridge."  It makes people laugh out loud on the dance floor.  The CD was recorded live so you will hear such humorous announcements as "ladies and gentlemen, clap on 2 and 4 only."  As well as a bunch of forgettable banter.  Most of the songs contain fun breaks for dancers to play with.  They also play a good version of "One Scotch, One Bourban and One Beer" (132 BPM).  A fine haunting non-swing original by Kearney rounds out the CD.  For CD ordering info, check out  www.vitalegacy.com.   
 
Stacey Kent - Let Yourself Go (2000) 
Reviewed: 24 April 2001.  Ratings: ****½, LLL½
See CD at Amazon.com »
This contemporary jazz vocal release is a real pleasure to listen to.  On this album, subtitled "celebrating Fred Astaire", Kent sings standards popularized by Astaire and written by the likes of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and the Gershwins.   For an album celebrating the songs of a dancer, its probably no surprise that the number of danceable songs is high.  Kent's voice is lovely and clear, with a not unpleasant nasal quality, and she sings the songs fairly straight, nothing fancy. Just how I like them!  The backing band is excellent, fronted by saxophonist Jim Tomlinson.  About half of the 13 songs are ballads, with minimal accompaniment.  They are excellent, even to this normally ballad-phobic reviewer.  The real appeal for a dancer is in the upbeat songs, like "Let Yourself Go" (164 BPM).  The bass and rhythm guitar keep the rhythm moving, the catchy melody captivates your attention and the saxophone and piano solos tickle your ears deliciously.  It even has fun breaks.  Other excellent songs: "I Won't Dance" (140 BPM) and "I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket" (165 BPM).  The danceable songs are all about 4 minutes long, great for dancers.  Interesting chord changes.  This is contemporary jazz in a style not unlike Diana Krall. These songs are not for every dancer.  The mood is laid-back.  But if you are tired of listening and dancing to the same old scratchy big band, repetitive jump blues, and annoying neo-swing songs, try something different, vocal jazz by a rising star--Stacey Kent.     
 
New! Stacey Kent - The Boy Next Door (Candid Records - 2003) 
Reviewed: 15 Feb. 2004.  Ratings: ****, LLL
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Stacey Kent's voice is still wonderful to listen to, and the backing band on this CD is still good.  For swing dancing, I like "The Best is Yet to Come" (130 BPM), "Ooh-She-Bee-Doo-Bee" (143 BPM) and "All I Do is Dream of You" (120 BPM).
 
King Pleasure - King Pleasure Sings, Annie Ross Sings (Prestige - 1990) 
Reviewed: 19 March 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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King Pleasure does vocalese, or putting voice and lyrics to the main instruments and solos in previously recorded songs.  He popularized the style, leading to the group Lambert, Henriks and Ross.  Manhattan Transfer also did vocalese.  Recorded 1952 to 1954, there's some good danceable songs on here.  I'm not crazy about vocalese, but sometimes it works.  Most of these songs are mellow jazz.  Not slow, necessarily, but relaxed.  His singing is not always on key.  I dig "Jumpin With Symphony Side" (153 BPM) and the bonus track instrumental "Funk Junction" (130 BPM).  "Red Top" (117 BPM) is also good.
 
King Pleasure - Moody's Mood for Love (Blue Note - 1992) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
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This CD contains 18 more songs featuring King Pleasure doing vocalese.  He sure can't hit higher notes very well.  "D.B. Blues" (143 BPM) seems like a good song for dancing, but its only 2:29 long and fades out strangely.  Songs were recorded mostly in 1962. 
 
Kings of Pleasure - Kings of Pleasure (1998) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: **½, LL½
A well-done independent release from a great little band out of Arizona.  The band's sound is much bigger than their four-person size would suggest.  This CD consists of half originals.  Tempos are 125 BPM and up, with no ballads.  A few of the songs are Latin rhythms.  I saw these guys a couple times, and they really entertain the crowd, dancers and onlookers alike.  "Hurricane" Carla, the female saxophonist, is excellent, as is the rhythm section.  The vocals are a little weak.  Good variety of songs.  I like "When Gin Was My Tonic" (125 BPM).
 
Andy Kirk - Git (Our World/Graffiti Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 20 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: *½, LL 
Andy Kirk's band, the Twelve Clouds of Joy was one of the major Kansas city bands of 30's and one of the first to catch on.  The songs on this collection were all recorded 1936 and 1937.  This budget compilation uses digital remastering to reduce noise and "improve" the sound of Kirks songs, but I'm not that crazy about the result.  I compared the version of "Bearcat Shuffle" from one on another collection. Same song, same version, different processing.  This version eliminates the noise, yes, but it took the warmth and bass with it.  Its echoey and poor.  Its best to avoid this collection and its poor remastering, unless you can't find any other Kirk out there.  Or maybe I'm being overly harsh.  "Cloudy" (184 BPM) caught my ear.  Rhythms are the early-swing punchy style, and tempos are mostly 155 BPM and up. 
 
Deanna Kirk - Live at Deanna's (Blackbird/Atlantic - 1999) 
Reviewed: 24 Dec. 2000.  Ratings: ***, L½ 
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Deanne Kirk is a young vocal jazz singer with her own club in NYC.  She's a little like Diana Krall.  For Djing/dancing, I like "Ooh Daddy" (130 BPM).  Her stuff is groovy, her voice is beautiful, and the band is good, but the singing style is a little too languid for my tastes.  Good Latin/swing mix tune: "St. Louis blues" (140 BPM). Lots of ballads.
 
Diana Krall - All For You (GRP - 1996) 
Reviewed: 1 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LL
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This album is a dedication to the Nat King Cole trio. Krall's voice is beautiful.  The backing band has only piano, guitar and bass.  Krall plays piano as well as she sings, too.  Most of this album is very mellow vocal jazz. Very. Mellow.  I bought the CD for the song "Frim Fram Sauce" (116 BPM) which is definitely danceable.  Her version of "Deed I Do" (147 BPM) is pretty good, too.  In a mellow way.
 
Diana Krall - When I Look Into Your Eyes (GRP - 1999) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
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This jazz vocal album by Krall is hugely popular.  Like All For You, its filled with more beautiful songs and more of her big beautiful voice.  The songs "When I Look Into Your Eyes" (119 BPM), "East of the Sun" (135 BPM), and "Popsicle Toes" (117 BPM) are my favorites for dancing, but a couple others swing, too.  The songs go over well when its time to get mellow.  Most of the other songs are ballads with string accompaniment.  All the songs are covers, but mostly well-arranged by Krall.  This is a really well-done album, and deserves its popularity, if you don't mind hearing sappy songs with no hard edges anywhere.  The sound quality is awesome.
 
Diana Krall - Love Scenes (Verve - 1997) 
Reviewed: 16 Feb. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL½
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More excellent mellow jazz by Diana Krall.  The danceable songs on this album are at least "I Don't Know Enough About Love" (125 BPM), "My Love Is" (122 BPM), "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me" (117 BPM), and if you like it slow: "Peel Me a Grape" (87 BPM).  There's no string accompaniment on this CD, thank god, but a lot of the music is still very very sleep inducing.  The danceable songs, however, are unbelievably groovy.  
 
Diana Krall - Live in Paris (Verve - 2002) 
Reviewed: 4 Nov. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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Diana Krall sounds great in this live recording.  The sound quality is so excellent you can hardly tell it's live except for the comments and clapping.  Good version of "Fly Me To The Moon" (129 BPM), but long, like many of the songs.  A full 70 minutes of music here.  There's an upbeat "East of the Sun" (157 BPM) and a screamingly fast "I Love Being Here With You".  She's really a good piano player--listen to her improvise like hell thru "East of the Sun".
 
Ernie Krivda & The Fat Tuesday Big Band - The Band That Swings (Koch Jazz - 1999) 
Reviewed: 16 May 2003.  Ratings: ***½, LLL½
See CD at Amazon.com »
This Big Band from Cleveland swings pretty well.  Their style is not classic like the Bill Elliott or Eddie Reed Big Bands, for example, but they do play for swing dancers, and the arrangements are quite danceable.  The arrangements are more modern, with punchy horn interjections like you would hear by the late-era Basie Big Band.  The BPMs of the songs are printed on the back and range from 67 to 200 BPM.  I like "Vine Street Rumble" (156 BPM), "'S Wonderful" (166 BPM) and "Undecided" (175 BPM).  The playing is very tight. A couple of the songs have vocals with the exagerrated delivery style that I dislike.  
 
Gene Krupa - The Gene Krupa Story (Box Set) (1998)
Reviewed: 4 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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I loved the Anita O'Day/Gene Krupa Meet Me in Uptown compilation so much I bought this four-CD Krupa box set.   Recorded 1936 to 1947, this compilation has something like 5 hours of music.  I didn't find too many songs featuring O'Day that I liked that weren't already on the Uptown collection, but I note that 3 of my favorite songs on the Uptown collection, aren't in this box set.  Of course, this set includes lots of Krupa instrumentals and songs featuring other vocalists.  I don't know how to rate this--it has a lot of great stuff, but there are other choices out there with a better ratio of good to bad that you don't have to pay so much for.  Only hard-core collectors buy box sets such as this, and they probably know more about big-band music than me, and probably don't need or won't heed my review, so I'll just stop right here.  
 

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