Ron's Swing CD Reviews

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Compilations - A to I J to R S to Z

Casey MacGill & the Spirits of Rhythm - Jump (1998) 
Reviewed: 17 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****½, LLL½
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Only 36 minutes.  I want more!  From the Northwest, this band deserves wider recognition.  Buy it!  Excellent sound, excellent vocals from various vocalists.  Mostly originals, the sound is authentic and modern sounding at the same time.  They have tight saxophone and brass sections.  And a piano--always seems to be a good sign when a swing band has a piano.  BPM printed in the liner notes!  All the songs are vocals, with tight harmonies, but I hear some hot instrumental solos, too.   "Whadaya Want" (158 BPM), with its great breaks, is my recent favorite to play while DJ-ing.  After I play one of their songs, people come up to ask "Who was that?", always a good sign.   Lyrics include: "Let's do the Lindy Hop, until we Blow Our Top!"  Sounds good to me! Four songs >195 BPM and a Latin song hurt the Lindy rating, but the fast songs are really good, like "Rhythm" (195 BPM).  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
Kevin Mahogany - Portrait Of Kevin Mahogany (Warner - 2000) 
Reviewed: 13 Dec. 2002.  Ratings: ****, L½
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This is a compilation of Kevin Mahogany's vocal jazz songs from the last few years.  Mahogany's voice is so very smooth.  The leadoff song is pretty good for dancing.  Its pretty groovy, "I'm Walkin'" (134 BPM) but long at 6:41.  It has sweet sax solos.   Most of the other songs are pretty mellow, more in the light jazz category.  
Junior Mance - At the Village Vanguard (Jazzland Records - 1996) 
Reviewed: 22 August 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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Junior Mance is a well-known soul-jazz piano player.  On this well-known and popular CD he plays a lot of fast and slow bluesy songs.  For dancing, "Smokey Blues" (109 BPM)(6:36) kicks serious butt. So does the slow blues number "63rd Street Theme" (86 BPM)(6:17).  Mance moans during his playing--its kinda annoying.  Only 42 minutes of music here.  This album was recorded in 1961.  Very enjoyable listening.
Veronica Martell - Big City Swing (2000) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: ***, L
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I agree with the liner notes that this CD has a "contemporary feel for the 90's".  She covers a few swing standards like "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (191 BPM) and "I Want You To Be My Baby" (210 BPM), "Buzz Me Blues" (98 BPM) and sings a few ballads.  She has a clear strong voice, and the band is very tight.  This isn't a bad CD, it is very well done.  However, there's nothing between 102 and 191 BPM, so the songs aren't very good for Lindy Hop dancing. I'm not sure who will really want this type of CD. The fast neo-swing lovers probably want harder rocking music, jazz listeners probably want something more authentic, she's not mellow enough to appeal to Diana Krall lovers, and Lindy Hop dancers generally want slower tunes.  However, I really like the slow "Sneakin' Around" (102 BPM).  The drummer sounds like a rock-band drummer.
Kim Massie & The Solid Senders - The Diva Survival Guide (2003) 
Reviewed: 9 Aug. 2003.  Ratings: ***, LL½
Kim Massie has a huge belting voice, totally suitable for these blues and R&B songs. I keep having to turn down the volume. This is good stuff!  The backup band doesn't impress me. Not all the songs are suitable for Lindy hopping.  
Les McCann - Talkin Verve (Verve - 1998) 
Reviewed: 12 April 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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McCann is a pianist and vocalist whose jazz recordings are on the funky side.  According to AMG, this collection collects many of the funkiest. Besides singing on many of these songs, he also wrote many of them, as well.   "Watermelon Man" (127 BPM) is one of the best non-swing funky danceable tracks I've found.  The vocal "The Great City" (154 BPM) is also great.  It's got it all--groove, energy and breaks.  The songs on this compilation aren't that complex or deep, and they have little in the way of jazz solos, but they sure make for entertaining listening.  
Floyd McDaniel - Let Your Hair Down (Delmark Records - 1994) 
Reviewed: 17 Oct. 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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This is a pretty decent collection of jumping and slow swinging blues.  The band is OK, but the piano and trumpet being the highlights. Floyd sings and plays guitar.    I'm pretty unimpressed with his guitar playing.  His voice shows the strain of age.  He plays a mix of blues and swing standards.
Jack McDuff - The Soulful Drums (Prestiage - 2001) 
Reviewed: 19 May 2003.  Ratings: **, LL
Jack McDuff plays jazz organ, and these sessions were recorded in 1964 and 1965.  Most with drummist Joe Dukes, so there's lots of big and random drumming.  I'm not a big jazz organ fan, nor a big bop fan, so I'm not fond of this music.  There's a lot of random sounding music on this compilation.  But I like "This Party's Over" (110 BPM) and "Redwood City" (115 BPM), but both are long.   
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy (1993) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: **½, L½
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The title song at 135 BPM is one of those unexpected swing songs, a sort of Reggae swing sound.  The rest of the CD is funky vocal jazz, not for dancing. 
Jimmy McGriff - Greatest Hits (Blue Note - 1997) 
Reviewed: 23 Oct. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LL
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I'm really enjoying listening to this CD, and I forget that I'm supposed to be listening for swing danceable songs.  And I'm telling you this as a person who's generally not into organ-based jazz.  But this is a greatest hits, after all, and these songs have a good variety of tempos, styles, instruments, and rhythms.  For dancing, the upbeat "All About My Girl" (169 BPM) is a lot of fun, complete with fun breaks, and the mother of all false endings.  But I first danced with Debbie Gitt at Lindygroove to this song so I may have been biased by the experience.  But I am a hardened reviewer, so that couldn't have affected my review, could it?  Oh, and most of the songs are basic blues, nothin' fancy, which I definitely dig.  And "dig" is an appropriate word here, as the songs were recorded from 1963 to 1971.  "Funky" is also another appropriate word.  Songs aren't always too complex, they seem to concentrate on getting a good groovy rhythm going.  Swing-rhythm songs are not much in evidence in this collection, so the swing dancing rating is appropriately low.  
Carmen McRae - Priceless Jazz (1998) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL 
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Recorded 1955 to 1958, Carmen McRae was a classic jazz vocalist.  Most of these songs are the kind you give a massage to, not dance to.  A few of the songs, though, do have the rhythm and tempo to dance to, and "You Took Advantage of Me" (115 BPM) or "Exactly Like You" (135 BPM) are favorites.  Most of the ballads are real yawners.  I greatly prefer Ella. 
Big Jay McNeely - Central Ave. Confidential (ATR-1999) 
Reviewed: 11 March 2001.  Ratings: **½, L½
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McNeely was famous in the 50's, and this is a modern recording that shows he still knows how to play the saxophone and make good music in the 90's.  There's some good groovy blues here, lots of organ and jazz guitar.  Long songs.  Moody music.  It doesn't remind me of the 50's at all.  There is little to interest a swing dancer such as myself.  But it sounds good.  And McNeely's classic "Big Jay Shuffle" (148 BPM) sounds excellent, and is eminently danceable.
Jay McShann - Going to Kansas City (New World - 1987) 
Reviewed: 21 April 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL
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Jay McShann has played jazz and blues since the '40s. This album is considered one of the finest of his late revival and was recorded in 1972 with Gus Johnson, Buddy Tate, Julian Dash, and Gene Ramey.  McShann plays a mean piano and sings on some of the songs.  Most of the songs swing.  I like "Say Forward, I'll March" (146 BPM) with its piano and tenor solos.  The whole CD is a pleasure to listen to.  There's a good blues tune, "Four Day Rider" (101 BPM) and a good 6-minute long version of "Moten Swing" (159 BPM).   
Jay McShann - The Definitive Black and Blue Sessions (Black & Blue - 1995) 
Reviewed: 25 Sept. 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LLL
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Recorded in the late 60's in France, these songs represent McShann at his best.  T. Bone Walker backs him up on guitar.   His piano playing on "Kansas City" (139 BPM) is truly fine.  This great swinging jump-blues number is sure to appeal to almost every dancer.  "Confessin' the Blues" (112 BPM) is also good.   The boogie-woogie songs "Roll 'Em" (200 BPM) and "Rollin' with Roland" (172 BPM) are also very good.  The 11-song CD is rounded out with a few more slow blues and few more very fast ones.  A few of the songs are vocals, most are instrumentals. 
Helen Merrill - The Best of Helen Merrill (Mercury - 2000) 
Reviewed: 19 Feb. 2003.  Ratings: **, L
This singer is so obscure I had to buy a Japanese import to hear her songs.  I'd tell you more about her except that I can't read Japanese and I'm too lazy to look it up on AMG or in my books.  This CD contains lots of mellow vocal songs with string orchestration.   The versions are tepid and sleepy.  Why did I buy this?  I just can't remember now.  I'm looking for jazz songs with a certain energy.  The first song "You'd Be So Nice..." is OK.  It actually has a decent trumpet solo.  Maybe that's why I bought it. 
Charmin Michelle - Hot (2001) 
Reviewed: 19 April 2002.  Ratings: ***, LL½
This is a delightful surprise from an independent jazz singer from Minneapolis.  Charmin Michelle's voice is charming and the band is talented.  Clarinetist/Saxophonist Doug Haining shines.  It's all a little rough at times, but very listenable. For CD ordering info, see Charmin Michelle's website.  I like "Come On Over To My House" (113 BPM).  
Charmin Michelle - Destination Moon (1998) 
Reviewed: 26 May 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLL
This CD and this artist was urged on me by other swing dancers, and I'm happy they provided the introduction.  This CD contains lovely jazz vocals from Minneapolis singer Charmin Michelle.  Excellent versions of "Love Me Or Leave Me" (138 BPM), "Destination Moon" (133 BPM), and "My Mother's Son in Law" (165 BPM).  Excellent backing instrumentals on this CD.  The saxophone is excellent.  The piano provides the perfect accompaniment.  Bass and drums mixed in equally expertly.  The overall sound and balance is excellent.  I even like the slow songs.  This band and this CD is seriously worth checking out.  See Charmin Michelle's website
Charmin Michelle - Your Eyes (2001) 
Reviewed: 26 May 2002.  Ratings: **½, LL
This CD is my least favorite of the three.  The main thing is that the songs aren't as good, but the singing and accompaniment don't seem as inspired, either, in my opinion.  Her voice has an echo on this CD. There are too many ballads, for my taste.
Midiri Brothers Orchestra - Finger Bustin' (1999) 
Reviewed: 21 Oct. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
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I regularly receive CDs by independent swing bands for review, and unfortunately, most aren't that great.  This CD by a New Jersey band was a very pleasant exception.  I've played it through a number of times while playing Backgammon on my computer. (A very nice combination.) The songs are of a wide variety, they are very enjoyable to listen to, and the muscianship is polished.  They remind me of the Hotfoot Club somewhat.  Clarinetist Joe Midiri shines, and his excellent arrangements are featured in most of the songs.  The songs with vocals feature the very pleasant voice of Paula Johns.  Most of the songs are performed by an excellent big band, and a couple with an excellent small group.  I like "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (132 BPM), the moody cha-cha "Petite Fleur" (123 BPM), their upbeat version of "Bye-Bye Blackbird" (162 BPM).  Very good versions of "Caledonia" (180 BPM) and "It Ain't What You Do" (169 BPM) as well.  A couple of scorchers and three ballads round out the set.  If this band comes to play near you, I recommend you go check them out, and pick up a CD while you're at it.
Midiri Brothers Septet - Live at Bridgewater (2001) 
Reviewed: 27 Dec. 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL
This is a tribute to Benny Goodman's sextet of the Charlie Christian era.  The songs are sweet, as is the playing.  However, the sound quality is very unimpressive.  Most of the songs were recorded live and its obvious.  The sound is echoey, the sound of the audience clapping drowns out the band, and the coughing, throat clearing, paper shuffling, side-talk, and other noises are extremely distracting.  The playing is exceptional, but the sound is so bad I can't recommend this CD.  The final four songs were recorded in a studio and are excellent, but mellow.  
Mighty Blue Kings - Come One, Come All (1997) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL
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Out of Chicago, this Jump Blues band is one of the best known swing bands in the country.  The music is tight, all vocals, with a band based on piano, saxophones and guitar.   Ross Bon, the vocalist, has an excellent voice, and he writes many of the songs, others are covers.  The album is short, at 35 minutes, with some good songs and some total losers.  Their first CD is much better.
Mighty Blue Kings - Meet me in Uptown (1996) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ****, LLLL
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This, their 1st, is the preferred CD of this hot Chicago band.  Highlights are "Baby Drives Me Wild" (175 BPM), "Buzz Buzz Buzz" (135 BPM), "Cadillac Boogie" (170 BPM), "Meet Me In Uptown" (145 BPM), "Rag Mop" (195 BPM), so, basically everything.  It was impossible to ever dance to them in Chicago, they were too popular and the bars they played were too packed.   The songs are infectious. The saxophone solos really sizzle.  This is a Ron's recommended essential swing CD.
Amos Milburn - Chicken Shack Boogie (Culture Press - 1998) 
Reviewed: 28 March 2000.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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This best-of CD has great upbeat boogie-woogie tunes and superb slow blues.  The boogie-woogie rhythm he plays on the piano is made for moving.  Almost all of the songs are vocal songs and his voice is good.  Some highly-suggestive lyrics.  Songs were recorded 1946 to 1947.  15 of the 24 songs are slow blues songs, some of them quite excellent.  Virtually all the songs, fast or slow, follow the classic 12-bar blues pattern, and most follow the vocal blues formula of repeated the first line of a verse twice.  For faster dancing, I like the first two songs "Down the Road A Piece" (186 BPM), "My Baby's Boogying" (166 BPM), and "Chicken Shack Boogie" (142 BPM).  A few others are 175 BPM and up.  Sound quality isn't great, but I've heard worse in this era.  He's usually only backed up by drums, guitar, bass, and sometimes a sax.  But the piano is so driving and boisterous the entire sound is surprising big.
Don Miller Orchestra - This Swingin' Life (1998)
Reviewed: 4 Sept. 1999.  Ratings: **, LL
I think I am biased against men doing the lead vocals.  Don Miller's voice isn't bad, just a little loungy.  Sinatra's sound was one of his inspirations, per the liner notes.  I like the woman's voice better.  Four of the 12 songs are instrumentals. The big band is tight, but isn't given much room to solo--they are just there to back the vocals, unlike Bill Elliott's orchestra.  This band just doesn't sound like a big band designed for dancing to, especially compared to Elliott's and Jacob's big bands.  The band interjections are too jerky and the solos, the few there are, too random, modern sounding.  And the breaks are too unpredictable.  The songs are a mix of originals and covers, with most tempos between 130 and 170 BPM, but four above 185 BPM.  I do like "Peel Me a Grape" (130 BPM), with the female vocalist, Tina Halvorson.
Glenn Miller - A Legendary Performer (1991) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LL½
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This is a collection of Miller's popular songs, 68 minutes worth on one CD.  The problem is that the versions of the songs compiled were chosen to be interesting or historically significant versions.  They aren't necessarily the highest fidelity, the most well-known, or the best versions for dancing.  Most of the songs were recorded live and have spoken introductions, making it difficult to play when you are DJ.  There are better Miller collections for dancers or DJs. 
Glenn Miller - The Essential Glenn Miller (RCA - 1995) 
Reviewed: 1 Feb. 2000.  Ratings: **, LL
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This is the definitive collection of pre-army Glenn Miller.  Recorded 1939 to 1942, this double-CD set has 47 songs, and over 140 minutes of music.  All the hits.  And far too-many "sweet" songs, the slow ballady stuff his band was known for.   Lots of vocals.  The latest in noise reduction.  I actually think the version of "In the Mood" on A Legendary Performer, reviewed above, is sonically better than the fuzzy version on this collection, but this version is the recognizable classic version.  Miller's stuff is very bland, and there's hardly a jazz solo to be heard.  Instead you'll hear lots of his signature rich harmonies.  There's so much better big-band out there, don't buy this unless you must.  I wish I hadn't.  The slow stuff sounds all the same and most of this is slow.
Glenn Miller - The Army Air Force Band, Rare Broadcast Performances (Laserlight) 
Reviewed: 23 April 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL
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This is a budget collection ($5.67 in at the time of this review) of rare broadcast performances recorded 1943 to 1944.  "Sun Valley Jump" (180 BPM), "Jeep Jockey Jump" (205 BPM) and "Here We Go Again" (186 BPM) are exceptional uptempo tunes, but most of the rest are slow boring ballads.  Sound quality isn't bad.  The best collection of his army band work is the 3-CD Secret Broadcasts (RCA 1996), reviewed below.
Glenn Miller - The Lost Recordings (RCA/BMG - 1996)  
Reviewed: 2 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: **, L½
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What a double-CD disappointment.  The songs on this collection aren't the same versions as the ones I liked on the above Laserlight collection, and in general don't have the same energy.   Disappointingly low sound quality.  Lots of slow cheesy songs, and, even worse, lots of slow cheesy songs in German.  These were propaganda broadcasts, recorded in November 1944. 
Glenn Miller - The Secret Broadcasts (RCA/BMG - 1996) 
Reviewed: 27 Mar. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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I'm as happy with this triple-CD collection as I was disappointed in The Lost Recordings.   Although two-thirds of the 80 songs are the sweet, string-orchestral songs that I absolutely detest, the other third are fine big band songs, with decent sound quality for 1944.  Songs were recorded in March to May 1944, which is before the songs in The Lost Recordings, but I think there's less noise and the sound is richer on this collection.  The band is exceptionally tight.  Still not exactly the same versions as the songs I liked on the budget Laserlight collection, but close. Highlights on this collection include: "Everybody Loves My Baby" (215 BPM), "Here We Go Again" (179 BPM), "Sun Valley Jump" (180 BPM), "Bubble Bath" (170 BPM), "Stealin Apples" (212 BPM) and "Enlisted Men's Mess" (236 BPM).  I don't this the version of "Jeep Jockey Jump" (176 BPM) here, its too slow, and sounds weird. There's lot of other good uptempo big-band numbers.  Miller's focus is on an overall band sound where the soloists are secondary, but the solos are very lively and interesting compared to those in the recordings I have of his civilian band.  A good alternative to the Secret Broadcasts is Vols. 1 and 2 of Miller's Missing Chapters.
Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra - 1943 - 1947 (1998) 
Reviewed: 30 Oct. 1999.  Ratings: **½, L½
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This big-band features a variety of vocalists, including Wynonie Harris & Bullmoose Jackson.  Sound quality is pretty low, but the band's talent shines through.  I like "Shorty's Got to Go" (145 BPM).  Tempos are all over, but there are a lot of very slow and 120 BPM-ish songs.
Roy Milton & His Solid Senders - Legends of Specialty (1990) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug. 1999, revised Aug. 31 2000.  Ratings: **½, LL½
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This album contains 25 tracks of boogie-woogie R&B by one of the early greats.  Recorded between 1945 and 1952, most are fairly low-fidelity.  Many of the songs sound similar, classic 12-bar blues.   Maybe these early greats are best in small doses, or on R&B compilations.  Since my first review, I've discovered that this CD has grown on me a little.  I love the boogie-woogie piano player, pounding up and down the keys throughout practically everything.  Boy he works hard. Some of the other musicians really put out some great sound, too.
Steven Mitchell - Just Wanna Swing (1997) 
Reviewed: 27 April 2000.  Ratings: **, LLL
Steven Mitchell is one of the best Lindy-Hop dancers and instructors around.  Unfortunately, his singing isn't nearly as good.  But I've heard worse.  Some of these 14 songs groove pretty well. The style of most of the songs is very modern, most very simple.  All originals, a mix of vocals and instrumentals.  There's a good brass section on some of the songs, and Bob Luna sounds great on piano.  As does Michael Blade on tenor sax.  Mitchell shares the writing credits with these two.  "The Jitterbug Stroll" (169 BPM) is the over-played line dance choreographed by Ryan Francois and put to music here by Steve Mitchell complete with his calling of the moves.  Of course all of these songs are danceable, but the music isn't that inspiring.  The tempos of 10 of the songs are in the boringly-narrow range from 152 to 170 BPM.  I don't actually own this CD, so when someone asks for "Jitterbug Stroll" I can say I don't have it!
Hank Mobley - Soul Station (Blue Note Records - 1960) 
Reviewed: 2 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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This is fine swinging Bop.  Considered Mobley's finest album, he plays an excellent tenor saxophone and is backed by piano, bass and drums. The songs aren't just a random collection of solos thrown together in an hour's session in the recording studio.  These songs are clearly crafted, with the members all making the shifts between parts of the songs as a cohesive whole.  "Dig Dis" (141 BPM) is decent for Lindyhopping, but long at 6:21.   
Mora's Modern Rhythmists - Mr. Rhythmist Goes to Town (Mr. Ace Records - 1999) 
Reviewed: 13 March 2000.  Ratings: ***½, LL½
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OK, I may be last kid on the swing-DJs block to get this CD.  I knew it was a modern big band playing authentic swing, similar to the Bill Elliott Orchestra, which I love.  And I knew it was highly regarded.  But I also knew the songs were faster than I preferred and that the songs were more from the early swing era, which I don't prefer.  But now that I've listened to it, I'm very happy to add it to my collection.  The musicianship is very good.  Well-balanced high-fi big-band jazz just sounds so good!  These guys really swing.  The early swing-era songs are staccato, Dixieland-jazz sounding.  Peppy, not groovy.  The LA swingers really love this LA-area band.  The songs are fast, as expected.  Besides three under 117 BPM, and one at 139 BPM, the other 17 range from 168 to 261 BPM.  On a few of the songs, there are vocalists, and some of the singing is quite painful.  The playing is always solid, though.  I like "Cavernism" (171 BPM), and "Blue Minor" (186 BPM). 
Mora's Modern Rhythmists - Call of the Freaks (2000) 
Reviewed: 2 Aug. 2000.  Ratings: ****, LLL
This CD commands your attention with its fine performances, interesting songs, and relentless rhythms.  Why the strange CD title?  As Dean Mora explains in the liner notes, the music is from the time period from 1927 to 1937.  He writes that it therefore doesn't appeal to WWII era swing lovers, who prefer the slower pop tunes, nor to the neo-Swing crowd of polyester zoot suits and goattees.  So, he writes, that makes him and his fans "freaks".  Well, I guess I'm a freak, too!  (But that could be said for all of us addicted swing dancers.)  I like "A Viper's Moan" (142 BPM), "Tar Paper Stomp" (174 BPM) (with the original lick that "In the Mood" copied), "The Dipsey Doodle" (181 BPM), "Hunkadola" (184 BPM) and I like the scorching "Honeysuckle Rose" (245 BPM) despite my slow-loving groovy music tendencies.  There's 20 songs, for a total of 63:53 minutes.  Each song is short and sweet.  Most were arranged by Dean Mora.   A better mix of tempos than the last album (slower!) and much better singing.  Same fine performances from the band.  Some of the songs have unexpectedly dissonant musical chords and melodies that are strangely intriguing.  The songs share the staccato, early swing feel, but are varied enough to be interesting.  Tired of the same old 12-bar blues-based swing songs?  Not scared of 20's music, complete with authentic sounding singers?  This CD will blow you away.  Go to Mora's Web site to check out CD
Jane Monheit - Never Never Land (NCoded Music - 2000) 
Reviewed: 18 Dec. 2001.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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This is a CD of ballads and mellow jazz.  Monheit has a very pretty voice.  At 22, she should have a great future.  Perfect intonation and wonderful dynamics.  No matter how soft she sings, it sounds great.  She sings the ballads beautifully, caressing every word.  Great backing band including pianist Kenny Barron and saxophonist David Newman.   For Lindy hoppers, the songs "Please Be Kind" (138 BPM) and "Twisted" (128 BPM) are fast enough to dance to, and fun, too.   
Barbara Morrison - I'm Gettin' 'Long All Right (1997) 
Reviewed: 20 Jan. 2000, updated 4 Feb. 2001.  Ratings: **½, LL½
Another modern singer who sings a couple of good, danceable swing songs.  The rest is a mix of ballads, blues and other stuff.  She has a hot, jazzy, big band backing her up.  Her voice is full of expression, and full of power or tenderness when she needs it.  Her version of "Stormy Monday" (139 BPM) is my favorite.  I also like "Confessin' the Blues" (121 BPM).  I'm not that crazy about the rest of the album and the arrangements. Lindy instructors Paul and Sharon recently taught a fun jazz/hip hop routine to the 2nd song, "Use Me".  Its a pity the CD is out-of-print at
New! Barbara Morrison - Live at the 9:20 Special (Springboard - 2002) 
Reviewed: 13 Dec. 2002.  Ratings: ****, LLLL½
If you could design the perfect CD for dancing, what would you ask for?  If you are a typical Lindy-hopper, you'd probably ask for a full CD of fun, high-energy jazz and blues classics sung by a passionate, dynamic singer backed by a relentlessly swinging band and for song tempos from 130 to 170 BPM.  And this is the CD you'd get--one of the best CDs that I've ever reviewed for Lindy-Hop dancers.  It was recorded live at a Lindy-Hop venue in San Francisco and produced by Lindy-Hopper extraordinaire Elliott Donnelley, so how could it not be great for dancers?  It even has the BPM of the songs on the back.  It does have some of the "texture" of a typical live recording--the occasional rough spots, the forgotten lyrics, and the strained notes.  And you can't really ever capture the excitment of a live performance in a recording.  But this is the closest you can get.  The sound quality is excellent.  The energy is almost palpable.  You can hear Morrison as she works the crowd.  You smile at her as she laughs and says "that was fun!"  You can almost see her belt out the songs with passion.  You almost feel you are there doing 8-ct swing-outs right there in front of the band.  I was at her recent show at Lindygroove in Pasadena and this does justice to her delightful performances.  Its hard to find fault with this CD.  OK, for what its worth, I prefer other versions of some of these songs, like "Fever", "Hit the Road Jack", "I Love Being Here With You", "Bye Bye Blackbird".  But to get all my favorite versions, I have to buy something like 12 CDs.  With this CD, you get very good versions all on one CD.  And every song is extremely dancer-friendly.  There isn't one bad song.  And some of her versions are just totally sweet, like "All Right OK You Win/Every Day" (130 BPM) and "Never Make Your Move Too Soon/Smack Dab" (135 BPM).  She sings a lot of medleys, and medleys can annoy me, but her medleys work pretty well.  The length of the songs are a little long (almost five minutes), on average, for dancers.  The band is great.  Morrison gives plenty of room for her band to shine and shine they do.  The rhythm section compels you to move, and the piano and guitar solos kick-butt.  Saxophone and trumpets also are good.  Summary: buy this CD.  Now.  For CD ordering info, go to or
Van Morrison - The Best Of  (1990) 
Reviewed: 21 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, L 
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OK, this is on this swing-CD list because of one song--"Moondance" (125 BPM).  It is such a great song, and it swings.  And you can Lindy to it.  A couple other songs swing, too.  Just wanted to point it out. 
Ella Mae Morse - The Very Best of Ella Mae Morse (1998) 
Reviewed: 18 Aug. 1999.  Ratings: ***, LLL
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This collection of oldies was recorded from 1942 to 1957 and despite its occasional fuzzy sound, I really like it.  All the songs swing, and most are backed up by various big bands.  Her voice really swings.   I play a lot of this CD, including, "Mr. Five by Five" (125 BPM), "Captain Kidd" (130 BPM) and "40 Cups of Coffee" (110 BPM). 
Gerry Mulligan - Meets Ben Webster (Verve - 1990) 
Reviewed: 2 Oct. 2001.  Ratings: ****, LL½
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Mulligan on Baritone meets Webster on Tenor, and the result is magic.   Complementary saxophone sounds.  They play a mix of Mulligan originals, Webster originals, and a few standards. "The Cat Walk" (127 BPM) is definitely danceable, but a little long at 5:44, as are a couple of the other danceable songs.  I like it when Webster's solo appears out of one speaker followed by Mulligan's out of the other speaker.   Which one's solo was better?  Recorded in 1959, this stuff swings beautifully. Songs average about 6½ minutes in length. The solos are long, but good. 

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