Swing

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The Swing genre represents a golden age for jazz that showed its first signs in the mid-20s, but really peaked from the mid-30s to the mid-40s. Going well into the 20s, most jazz bands still played in New Orleans or Dixieland styles in which the musicians all improvised simultaneously while staying within the boundaries of the original tune's melody and harmony.

When cornetist Louis Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in 1924, the band's arranger, Don Redman, knew he had a rare talent on his hands and began to spotlight Armstrong's melodic skills. No longer would the entire band improvise, instead Armstrong would be given the freedom to take solos to new heights while the rest of the band supplied supporting riffs. This new approach to band arranging spread and reached the public at a time when people were looking for large orchestral bands that could provide an evening's worth of dance music. Thus the golden age for big band jazz was born.

From 1935 to about 1946 jazz dance bands led by the likes of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington were the number one form of entertainment in the US. The swing era finally came to an end when new taxation laws on nightclubs made dance floors unprofitable and jazz became an entertainment for listening, not dancing.

On JMA, The Classic (1920s) Jazz genre is considered the genre that happens between the end of Dixieland and the beginning of Swing. Many of the originators of swing, such as Louis Armstrong, can be found in the Classic Jazz genre.

swing top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

IKE QUEBEC It Might as Well Be Spring Album Cover It Might as Well Be Spring
IKE QUEBEC
4.75 | 2 ratings
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BEN WEBSTER See You at the Fair Album Cover See You at the Fair
BEN WEBSTER
4.75 | 2 ratings
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IKE QUEBEC Blue and Sentimental Album Cover Blue and Sentimental
IKE QUEBEC
4.52 | 2 ratings
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STÉPHANE GRAPPELLI Jazz in Paris: Improvisations Album Cover Jazz in Paris: Improvisations
STÉPHANE GRAPPELLI
4.50 | 2 ratings
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ERROLL GARNER Concert by the Sea (aka Eroll Garner) Album Cover Concert by the Sea (aka Eroll Garner)
ERROLL GARNER
4.25 | 2 ratings
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ROY ELDRIDGE Montreux 77 Album Cover Montreux 77
ROY ELDRIDGE
4.25 | 2 ratings
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DUKE ELLINGTON Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (aka Incontro Duke Ellington & Coleman Hawkins) Album Cover Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (aka Incontro Duke Ellington & Coleman Hawkins)
DUKE ELLINGTON
4.00 | 3 ratings
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BIRÉLI LAGRÈNE Move Album Cover Move
BIRÉLI LAGRÈNE
4.00 | 2 ratings
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BEN WEBSTER Gone With the Wind Album Cover Gone With the Wind
BEN WEBSTER
4.00 | 2 ratings
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THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues Album Cover Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues
THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET
4.00 | 2 ratings
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BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Americana Deluxe) Album Cover Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Americana Deluxe)
BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY
4.00 | 2 ratings
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BIRÉLI LAGRÈNE Gipsy Project Album Cover Gipsy Project
BIRÉLI LAGRÈNE
4.00 | 2 ratings
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swing Music Reviews

LARRY NEWCOMB Larry Newcomb Quartet with Bucky Pizzarelli : Living Tribute

Album · 2017 · Swing
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kev rowland


Mostly an instrumental album, this captures the Larry Newcomb Quartet with Bucky Pizzarelli working through a series of numbers that vary in age from covers dating as far back as 1932 and brand-new originals. Each of the eleven songs are dedicated to individuals who have had an immensely positive impact on Larry, most particularly Dick Hall who passed away in June 2016. Larry is an incredibly thoughtful guitarist, never using a multitude of notes when just a few will do, concentrating instead on the tone he is getting out of his instrument, and fitting in with the music around him.

Although he has studied with many jazz masters, including Bucky Pizzarelli himself, he has also looked further afield so that Hank Marvin can be heard to have been an influence, as well as B.B. King. He is a complete master of his instrument, and the result is an album that is incredibly easy to listen to, with drummer Jimmy Madison, bassist Dmitri Kolesnik and pianist Eric Olsen all as one, creating a sound that the listener wants to dive into and immerse themselves with. Melodic, improvisational, and always in control, this is an album where the music is far more important than any individual player. A wonderful piece of work.

DUKE ELLINGTON An Intimate Piano Session

Album · 2017 · Swing
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js
Although Duke Ellington has always been highly acclaimed for his composing, arranging and band leadership, you rarely hear much about his piano playing, possibly because there are not that many recordings available that highlight his skills at the keyboard. That unfortunate situation has been somewhat alleviated recently with this latest release of Ellington archival recordings called “An Intimate Piano Session”, which features Duke, mostly by himself on a grand piano, playing tunes that we don’t hear too often from him. Ellington was not a particularly flashy or technical player, but what he plays is often far more interesting than those who might have greater technical skills. In a recent interview, modern piano maverick Matthew Shipp pointed out that as a developing pianist he avoided the 70s triumvirate of Corea, Jarrett and Hancock, and instead focused on earlier players such as Ellington. No doubt Sun Ra’s path less traveled also revealed a strong Duke influence too.

Some of the best cuts on this CD come with the first four tracks. Here we hear the Ellington harmonic formula; ragtime, blues and stride piano mixed with mid-20th century concert hall music, particularly Debussy and Delius. This mix of blues and elegant impressionism became the predominate musical language of the 20th century, and for much of the current century as well. There are many more great cuts on here, particularly a very moving “Melancholia”, and “New World A-Comin”, which shows Duke at his most extravagant and technically flashy as he seems to be channeling piano virtuosos like Rachmaninoff and Chopin. There are couple cuts that feature vocalists Anita Moore and Tony Watkins. Of these two singers, Moore comes across better, as Watkin’s overly dramatic and operatic tenor sounds like period kitsch in today’s scene. This CD closes with a few cuts that feature Ellington on piano with organist Wild Bill Davis and a small rhythm section. Of these cuts, “The Lake” is sublime Latin exotica, but the rest are hardly essential.

There are a couple cuts on here that could have been left off, track 7 and 17 are unexplainable little song segments that serve very little purpose if any. The version of “Satin Doll” features Duke’s well known rap about finger snapping, possibly amusing if you never heard it before, but most long time Ellington fans have heard this routine a hundred times by now. Also, most of the tracks on “An Intimate Piano Session” are not polished performances, Duke stumbles here and there and attempts things he can’t quite pull off, but really good jazz isn’t necessarily about polish, Also, there is a noticeable tape slip on the second take of “Lotus Blossom”. Overall, this is a good CD that provides valuable insight into Ellington’s harmonic language on the piano, but with a little editing, it could be even better.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
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js
The Microscopic Septet is one of those eclectic downtown NYC combos that got their start in the early 80s during the so-called ‘knitting factory scene’. The band disbanded in the late 80s, only to reappear a few decades later for today’s NYC scene that still leans toward eclectic influences and a quirky sense of humor. Microscopic has always favored a swing feel in their music, but not in a nostalgic or museum sense, instead, they often infuse their music with bits of the avant-garde, as well as polkas, tangos, cartoon music, punk rock and whatever else may be laying about. On their latest album, “Been Up So Long it Looks Like Down to Me”, the Septet leans heavily on their swing roots as they present eleven originals, plus two covers, that sound like they could have come from a swing dance club in the 40s. All the same, don’t confuse this album with that whole bothersome ’swing revival’ that came out of San Francisco in the post grunge mid 90s. Microscopic’s music is way more informed about what swing was, and can be in the future, than most of the heavy handed dull trend followers that made up the fortunately short lived ‘revival’.

The basic makeup of the Septet is a four piece saxophone section backed by a three piece rhythm section. Right off the bat this gives the band a sound similar to the Four Brothers, the famous spin off combo from Woody Herman’s big band. Other comparisons to the Microscopic sound could be found in the smaller combos led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sun Ra. The fact that most of the members of the Septet are dedicated to this one band gives their horn section a nice cohesion and flow that is often missing from many modern ensembles whose players have to play in many bands just to pay the bills.

There are lots of great cuts on here. “Dark Blue” has a ‘talking’ bari solo that gets into some call and response with the other horns, “PJ in the 60s” opens with a fierce free solo before settling into some excellent Duke flavored riffs, “Migraine Blues’ features some hard driving Count Basie riffs topped by another wild bari solo, and “Quizzical’ has an interesting arrangement that seems to modulate through many keys in a sort of Don Ellis meets Ellington effect. If there is one song that doesn't seem to fit, it would be, "When its Getting Dark", a campy RnB number that sounds similar to the the theme from the old Batman TV show. I guess its only similarity to the other numbers is that, like the rest, it uses blues changes for its chord progression. The song does redeem itself towards the end when it builds up to four saxophones soloing frantically at the same time.

It seems lately that it has become somewhat hip for avant NYC bands to take another look at the possibilities in pre-bop jazz. The result has been some interesting ’hot’ music that gets away from the dry intellectual sound of modern post bop. If this re-examination of early jazz results in imaginative and swinging albums like “Been Up So Long…”, then it can only be a good thing.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues

Album · 2017 · Swing
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kev rowland
The complete title of this album is ‘Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues’, and was recorded in just two days last May. The Micros were originally formed in 1980, but split up in 1992 after releasing four albums. These were then reissued as two double CD sets by Cuneiform in 2006, which were so successful that it prompted the band to reform (with only one line-up change). Since then they have released three other albums, and are now back with their fourth. There is only one problem, now that I’ve heard this one I’m going to have to go back and get all the others! When playing jazz recorded before 1960, something I’ve been doing a lot of over the last few years, there are some bands that come close to the boundary with blues, providing a swing and feeling that interweaves the two genres, and that is what I am listening to right now.

This is class Golden Age jazz being taken into blues and creating music that is incredibly accessible, enjoyable, and just so damn soulful all at the same time. My father introduced me to jazz when I was young, encouraging me to listen to Jack Teagarden, Gene Krupa, Bunk Johnson and others, and I know he would get a real kick out of this release as it is right up his alley. They’ve listened to the orchestrations of Duke Ellington, and the way that Thelonious Monk played piano, and brought all this into an incredible album that I can listen to all day. Strangely enough, the song that made the most impression on me is not a blues number as such, but instead is a rather well-known carol. I can honestly say I’ve never heard “Silent Night” played like this before. It starts with just piano, but there is dissonance and chords that don’t quite fit, but actually do very well indeed. This moves into a full band piece that is always recognisable but is taking the song into very new directions indeed. This is a wonderful album, and for details on this and many more invaluable releases visit the label

MICHAEL GAMBLE Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders

Album · 2016 · Swing
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js
Mike Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders is the name of an all-star group of swing enthusiasts, and its also the name of their new album. There was a time back in the 90s, when the so-called ‘swing revival’ was in full bloom and many an aging rock musician tried to cash in by putting together what they thought was a swing band. Many of those ill-informed artists were presenting re-tread rockabilly and garage band level jump blues as if it was actually ‘swing’. Fortunately, in the new century, the trend eased off and the wannabes moved on leaving the true swing lovers to enjoy their art without any further mis-guided dilution. Which brings us to the talented Rhythm Serenaders and their new album. There are no wannabes here, these are guys who know the music and play it well, no heavy handed or cheap reproductions are allowed. Their recording techniques are authentic as well, as every tune here was recorded live on the spot with no overdubs or studio trickery.

There is a nice selection of tunes on here, and a smart avoidance of the over-played and predictable. As can be expected, it’s the top writers of the day who supply the most sassy and infectious riffs. Some of the best include; Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian’s “Seven Come Eleven”, Goodman and Lionel Hampton’s, “Pick a Rib”, Count Basie’s “Sweet”, and the Ellington influenced slinky noir of Ben Webster’s “Woke Up Clipped”. A couple tunes feature the exuberant vocals of Russ Wilson, who battles it out with busy New Orleans/Dixieland type polyphony with all the horns soloing at once. On four other tracks you get the coy Billie Holiday influenced vocals of Laura Windley. Every tune on here is at least good, there are no duds. The solos on here are good as well, but as typical with ‘revival’ bands of any genre, the soloists seem to be a little more polite and careful in their execution, as opposed to the gut busting musicians from that era.

This is music for dancing and partying, but it works well for just listening too. In an interesting side note, each track comes with a bpm number, just like a modern dance record. So basically a DJ or mixing artist could use this CD of re-constituted older jazz music in a modern dance mix.

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