Friday, June 26, 2009

June CD Review of the Month: The Solomon Douglas Swingtet - Live at the Legion

Solomon Douglas’s Live at the Legion is an ambitious undertaking full of yummy Basie and Ellington inspiration that flies in the face of those who say Lindy Hop is moving unstoppably back to days of 1920’s Hot Jazz. I had the good fortune to DJ band breaks when Solomon’s Swingtet performed Splanky, Shorty George, Rockin’ in Rhythm and East Saint Louis Toodle-oo (all off his new CD) at BABBLE this year and remember thinking at the time, “he’s not taking the easy way out playing well known numbers that require musicians that can really bring it”.

But bring it, this CD does. Eric Heveron-Smith is as solid as always, as is Peter Petersen, (whose release “Keep Your Hat On” is also tight). Honestly, I was prepared to not like the slower version of “I Needs to Bee’d With” as the Basie version from Live at the Sands is a favorite of mine. But the arrangement was quite good, even if markedly different in feel. I also appreciated that the liner notes told us which recordings Solomon based his arrangements off so I could listen side by side for comparison. I particularly enjoyed the tracks mentioned above, as well as Centerpiece and the very groovy Funk Junction.

My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that I felt like the trumpet section was, at times, a bit restrained. They came off sounding a little tentative and unsure in an otherwise driving "One O’clock Jump". In fact, "Saturday Night Function", "Singing the Blues Till Daddy Comes Home" and particularly "Buffalo Blues" were all well measured and technically proficient, but I kept wishing they would cut loose and bask in the energy of the live recording the way the rest of this album does.

Still, Live at the Legion is a very solid release and I imagine you’ll be hearing a fair number of the recordings at events in the future because the sound quality is superb and the arrangements have a great thickness and complexity that give dancers a lot to play with. All in all, a very nice followup release that captures much of the excitement I felt when seeing the ensemble perform live in NYC. Great for DJ'ing, even better to throw on and listen to at home.

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