It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Swing! Here and Now
is devoted exclusively to the music of the great Harry Warren — and we don’t use the word “great” casually — one of the most talented yet sadly neglected songwriters of Hollywood’s Golden Age of musical films. How good was he? Well, Warren won three Academy Awards (for “Lullaby of Broadway,” 1935; “You’ll Never Know,” 1943; “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” 1946) and was nominated for the award on eight other occasions from 1937–57, during which time he worked with more than half a dozen lyricists including Al Dubin, Mack Gordon and Johnny Mercer, with each of whom he won the coveted Oscar. From 1935–50 no less than 42 of Warren’s songs were listed among the top 10 on the weekly radio program,“Your Hit Parade”(Irving Berlin, in second place, had 33). Whatever magic it takes to write enduring melodies, Harry Warren had it in spades. And if you doubt that, simply glance at the list of songs on Swing! Here and Now.
I’d guess there’s not a one you haven’t heard more than once, and perhaps you can even sing the lyrics to some of them while listening, as I often do. Any band that endeavors to keep Warren’s music alive rates an automatic “thumbs up” from this reviewer, and the fact that the George Roumanis Big Band carries out its assigned duties so admirably is icing on the cake. While Roumanis has a number of well–respected Jazzmen in his Washington, DC–area ensemble (most notably trombonists Dave Steinmeyer and Rick Lillard, tenor saxophonist Chris Vadala, alto Pete BarenBregge and pianist John Fluck), and there are some brief but trenchant solos sprinkled throughout, the music is more dance / swing than Jazz, and the emphasis is (rightfully) on Warren’s charming melodies, which have easily stood the test of time and are as fresh–tasting as today’s home–baked bread. Roumanis, who has composed and arranged for Tommy Dorsey, Ralph Flanagan, Charlie Spivak, Count Basie and other Swing Era legends, writes forthright yet always engaging charts that the band plays as well as one could wish. As we've indicated, Warren's melodies don't need much elaboration to earn one's approval. For those who want to recall what music was like when it truly was music, or would like to learn more about America's classic period of popular song, and don't mind dancing as they do, Swing! Here and Now
is a marvelous place to start.
Contact:Rocksmith Recordings, c/o Trust Management Inc., P.O. Box 22274, Carmel, CA 93922. Phone 831–626–1030; fax 831–626–1026; e–mail ROCKSMITH2@aol.com (the $15 price includes shipping).
Personnel: George Roumanis, leader, arranger; Tom Williams, Jimmy Lay, trumpet; Pete BarenBregge, alto sax; Chris Vadala, Jack Wolfe, tenor sax; Tim Price, baritone sax; Dave Steinmeyer, Rick Lillard, trombone; Lee Gause, bass trombone; John Fluck, piano; Dave Wundrow, bass; Leonard Cuddy, drums. Other personnel unlisted.