Kings of Swing, op. 1/SWR Big Band
September 22, 2013
What a surprise my ears got when I spun the latest release “Kings of Swing” from the SWR Big Band with vocals by Foal Dada. I also relearned a lesson about never assuming content by the cover. When I saw the band dressed in tuxedo’s I thought that this group had no clue about how to play big band material properly. A singer named Dada reeked of scat singing but on both accounts I was wrong. The band was better than the original recordings, having the advantage of excellent acoustics, improved mikes, and digital recording. The singing was so clear with just the right amount of enunciation on key words it became quite evident this should be an award winner; it is that good.
Opus No. 1, written by arranger composer See Oliver, opens the CD, a tune that all of the big bands had in their book. Originally it was recorded for the film “Broadway in Rhythm” (1943) but was cut at the last minute. Tommy Dorsey and Ted Heath made huge hits of it and subsequently it has been used in films where a big band sound was necessary. SWR leader Pierre Paquette offers a nice clarinet solo.
Why Don’t You Do Right, composed by Joe McCoy in 1936 as “Weed Smoker’s Dream, was arranged by Benny Goodman in 1942, sung by Peggy Lee, and ended up selling more than a million copies. It is classic woman’s blues twelve bar minor key material and vocalist Foal Dada does a fine job with a straight no scat rendition. Pierre also adds a clarinet solo.
Marie was originally written for an early sound film with no dialogue by Irving Berlin but became a standard for the Tommy Dorsey band. It offers a perfectly played solo by Ernst Hotter, trombone, and Pierre Paquette doing the vocal. Could one say that it is better than the original? I like the arrangement which has eliminated the famous Bunny Brigand solo replacing it with more trombone works.
Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, sung by Marilyn Monroe in the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” sung by Fola Dada is another example of how lyrics should be sung. Another winner from SWR!
At Last, a Glenn Miller hit from the film “Orchestra Wives” lightly swings being enhanced by some nice trumpet work from Felice Civitareale. It is classic Miller and a great example of his sound which includes a clarinet leading the sax section. This is a very danceable track if you’re so inclined.
Stealin’ Apples, a “Fats” Waller composition made famous by Benny Goodman, is performed flawlessly by Pierre Paquette in a way that Benny would have been proud of. The drum also offers some nice rhythm with a couple of solid solos.
A Tisket A Tasket, the nursery rhyme adapted to a jazz standard is performed by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra, is one of the highlights of this album. Fola is right at home using the right inflection and enunciation to rival Ella in her
And The Angels Sing, written by Ziggy Elman and Johnny Mercer was a number one hit for Benny Goodman in 1939. Fola is in top form and rivals the original singer Martha Tilton for performance. The original Ziggy Elman solo is nicely played by Felice Civitareale.
Isfahan is certainly in the category of an underappreciated Duke Ellington number that was part of his “Far East Suite” recorded in 1966. The swazy swaggering alto sax originally performed by Johnny Hodges is in able hands with Klaus Graf. The trombones provide a nice presence with harmony.
Flight of the Bumblebee, the famous Rimsky Korsakov melody from his opera “The Tale of Tsar of Saltan” has become one of the more popular melodies being performed by swing, classical, jazz, and modern groups. There seems to be a frantic pace that has involved Guiness Book of Records as to how fast it can be played. This version is impossibly performed on trombone by Marc Godford. As a former trombone player there is no way I could have done what Godford did.
Trumpet Blues, a Harry James standard, is in reality a frantic paced boogie woogie. Trumpets are front and center with ably backing from the orchestra.
Almost Like Being In Love, a Loewe/Lerner tune has been sung by Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, and countless others over the years. Sung in this SWR version with Dada is more than just easy on your ears. You feel and anticipate her every word.
Swing That Music is classic Satchmo with the trumpet licks being played by Martijn Latt with words from the versatile leader Pierre Paquette.
It’s A Wonderful World is one of those songs that just pull at your heart strings. Dada does a fine job that Asthma would have been proud of.
It should be crystal clear, if you’ve read this review how much I like this recording. Any big band collection of material is incomplete without this recording in your collection. While nothing in life is perfect this recording is as close as you’ll get.