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Perhaps a testament to the greatness of the only original art form to come out of the United States is how well it translates to other musicians in places outside of North America. Certainly this is evidenced in the CD Get Happy by the Swingcats. The Swingcats, made up of musicians from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, were formed in 1991 and are led by saxophonist and clarinetist Frank Roberscheuten. Get Happy represents the group's cross section of selections ranging from the early jazz of Jelly Roll Morton through more modern styles penned by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Also featured prominently is the group's vocalist, Shaunette Hildabrand, who hails from Oklahoma.
Although there is nothing particularly musically "outside" or adventurous about what the Swingcats perform on Get Happy, there is no doubt they are very competent musicians in great command of their instruments and demonstrate a superlative stylistic understanding of the music. All seventeen pieces on the recording represent jazz standards, including Dizzy Gillespie's "Be Bop," Charlie Parker's "Little Suede Shoes," Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp," and selections from the Great American Songbook by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, and Sammy Kahn. Vocalist Shaunette Hildabrand is a standout on "I've Got a Crush on You," the title cut, "Tea for Two," and "Undecided." Of particular note to this listener is her swinging styling on "Fools Rush In" and "C'est Magnifique" and her beautiful rendition of the classic ballad "Laura." Throughout all of the tunes with vocals, Hildabrand is aptly accompanied by a consistent and tight rhythm section and Roberscheuten's musical asides on saxophone or clarinet.
Jazz aficionados who are particularly interested in groups which hold fast to a swinging groove right down the center of the jazz mainstream and also maintain the repertory and sensibility of jazz of the past will find the Swingcats right up their alley. The group provides an excellent clinic on maintaining the jazz tradition.
Track Listing: Lullaby of the Leaves, Christopher Columbus, I've Got A Crush On You, Get Happy, Hallelujah, Harlem Nocturne, Undecided, Jubilee, Fools Rush In, My Little Suede Shoes, C'est Magnifique, Tea For Two, The Midnight Sun Will Never Set, King Porter Stomp, Be Bop, Laura, Crazy Rhythm
Personnel: Frank Roberscheuten (leader, clarinet, saxophones), Dirk Van Der Linden (piano), Karel Algoed (bass), Moritz Gastreich (drums), Shaunette Hildabrand (vocals)
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.