There has been much discussion recently at the Kentonia (fans of Stan Kenton) web site about swing—what it is (and isn’t), how one can identify and/or define it, does it mean the same thing to different people, and so on. May I suggest that those who’ve not yet gotten their hands around the topic pick up a copy of this delightful session by Canadian-bred saxophonist Jim Galloway’s six-member group, Echoes of Swing, which does precisely that from pillar to post, stem to stern and all stops in between.
Galloway, who was only a little tad when the Swing Era was in bloom, learned about it by playing alongside such swing masters as Buck Clayton, Yank Lawson, Buddy Tate and the irrepressible Jay McShann. The ensemble he leads here is an outgrowth of The Metro Stompers, co-led by Galloway and journalist/drummer Paul Rimstead, which has performed for many years (since 1974, actually) on Caribbean cruises sponsored by Brotherton’s Travel. This album, the group’s first recording on dry land, was taped last year for an appreciative audience at the Montreal Bistro nightclub in Toronto.
A group photo in the booklet shows five grey- to white-haired gentlemen and one (bassist Dave Field) whose hair hasn’t yet turned to silver. Clearly, these chaps have been around the block a time or two and it shows. They approach each of these venerable themes as if it were brand new and being performed for the first time. The result is a concert that is deceptively laid back and mellow yet swings at every tempo, reminiscent of the similarly swing-based albums that appear regularly on the Arbors and Nagel-Heyer labels.
After opening with three well-known standards, the group turns to music by Ellington (“Just Squeeze Me,” “In My Solitude”), Fats Waller (“Blue Turning Grey Over You”) and a trio of Swing Era favorites, “Christopher Columbus,” “Sugar” and “Runnin’ Wild.” The other tune, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll,” is the only one the ensemble plays at every gig, as it was a special favorite of the late Jack Britton who founded Brotherton’s Travel and suggested to Rimstead that he host a Jazz group on the Caribbean cruises that Brotherton’s was sponsoring on the Holland America line.
While all of the soloists are first class (trombonist Bower is featured all the way on “Solitude”), Galloway is positively awesome on soprano or baritone (“Jeepers Creepers,” “Christopher Columbus”), displaying an elegance on the former that reminds one of such Swing Era (alto) giants as Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges or Marshall Royal (with traces of another of the great ones, best known as a tenor saxophonist, Zoot Sims). The vocalist on “Sugar” and “Jelly Roll” isn’t identified, so I assume that’s Galloway too.
A thoroughly pleasurable concert session that does what it sets out to do, and that is swing.
Personnel: Jim Galloway, soprano, baritone sax; Dave Johnston, trumpet; Laurie Bower, trombone; Ian Bargh, piano; Dave Field, bass; Don Vickery, drums.