The SOS (Sound of Swing) Big Band, formed ten years ago by Stefan Nordin and comprised mainly of music teachers and musical hobbyists, is based in Stockholm, Sweden. It’s clear from these two discs, recorded in concert in 1995 ( Ballroom ) and ’97 ( Vegas ), that this is a band that plays to its audience and has enormous fun doing so. These are dance dates, and each one is loaded with crowd–pleasing numbers, whether instrumental or vocal. For the record, there are ten vocals on Ballroom (seven by Margareta Korths–Aspegren), fourteen on Vegas (eight by Korths–Aspegren). Besides possessing a respectable voice, she has a marginally better feeling for Jazz and less trouble with English pronunciations than many other European band–singers we’ve heard. For an amateur group, the SOS ensemble is quite commendable as well, although there are no decent soloists to be heard. The band seldom strays from the tried–and–true (serving ample helpings of Basie and Ellington), but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it’s well–done. SOS opens Ballroom with two Neal Hefti compositions, “Flight of the Foo Bird” and “Splanky,” and includes the Joe Williams staple, “Alright, Okay, You Win” (sung here by Martin Pålsson) and Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone.” The most capable soloist on the date is guitarist Lars Åkesson, who’s featured on “This Could Be the Start of Something” and (with Korths–Aspegren) on Nat Adderley’s “Sermonette.” Margareta closes the session with another show–stopper, Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York.” Vegas is intended to give the audience a taste of Nevada–style night life with a number of songs associated with Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis (and of course, Basie) flavoring the menu. Unlike its counterpart, what the disc lacks is a listing of soloists (we assume that’s conductor Nordin singing on “Come Fly with Me,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and elsewhere, as no singer besides Korths–Aspegren is listed on the jacket, but we could be wrong about that). Frank Foster (and thus Basie) is represented by “Shiny Stockings,” Freddie Green by “Corner Pocket,” Sammy Nestico by “The Heat’s On.” Nice solos by trumpeter Patrik Eriksson and pianist Maria Kvist on “Shiny Stockings,” tenor Ari Haraldsson on “The Heat’s On,” Haraldsson and baritone Björn Dahlberg on “Corner Pocket.” We should say a word too about drummer Stefan Andersson, as he is quite good. Recording quality is generally good as well, although there’s no doubt it’s a concert date, as is the case with Ballroom. Memo to SOS: keep doing what you’re doing, guys. Whether in Sweden, Sri Lanka or Saskatchewan, the world needs more of this kind of music.
Track listing: Show and Ballroom — Flight of the Foo Bird; Splanky; I Just Found Out About Love; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Georgia on My Mind; The More I See You; Moonglow; Well Alright, Okay, You Win; Sweet Georgia Brown; In a Mellow Tone; For Once in My Life; Let There Be Love; This Could Be the Start of Something Big; Sermonette; Saving All My Love for You; New York, New York (59:36). Sound of Vegas — Come Fly with Me; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; Paper Moon; On a Wonderful Day Like Today; Shiny Stockings; Where or When; My Kind of Town; Splanky; The Heat’s On; For Once in My Life; My Way; Heartbreak Hotel; Proud Mary; If; Mr. Bojangles; The Birth of the Blues; Corner Pocket; Too Close for Comfort (68:44).
Collective personnel: Stefan “Abbe” Nordin, leader; Johan Åtting, Fredrik Oscarsson, Fredrik Ljung, Bo–Göran Pettersson, Bo Wistrand, Per Grundmark, Patrik Eriksson, trumpet; Mikael Hollmark, Håkan Persson, Per Johansson, Ola Severeide, Stefan Hollmark, Björn Larsson, Håkan Säfverstad, Ingvar Nilsson, trombone; Paul Stjernholm, Bo Neidenström, alto sax; Ari Haraldsson, Louise Wetterström, Patrik Johansson, tenor sax; Jakob Norgren, Björn Dahlberg, baritone sax; Lisa “Miss Basie” Bothzén, Maria Kvist, piano; Håkan Bäckström, Lars Åkesson, guitar; Per Fjällström, Anders Groop, bass; Emil Ohlin, Stefan Andersson, drums; Margareta Korths–Aspegren, vocals. With guests Staffan Arnberg, trombone; Martin Pålsson, Caroline Williams, vocals; the “Four Sisters” (Gabriella Andersson, Charlott Berg, Anna Lindström, Aina Lindqvist), vocals.