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Sweet Megg & Ricky Alexander

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I'm always amazed when young musicians and singers today are passionate about and obsessed with a long-ago jazz era. I just assume that given a choice, these artists would rather stick with post-war jazz movements—from bebop to fusion and beyond. Not Sweet Megg and Ricky Alexander and the musicians they hang out with. For them, the year is 1935, when syncopation was king and bluesy vocals were sandwiched in the middle of hot jazz recordings by small groups. Their album's latest video clip is being seen online for the first time here at the end of this post.

You'll find such songs on the newly released Sweet Megg and Ricky Alexander: I'm in Love Again (Turtle Bay). Sweet Megg is on vocals and Alexander plays tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and clarinet. They are joined by Mike Davis (tp), Rob Edwards (tb), Jerron Paxton (banjo,g), Dalton Ridehour (p), Bob Adkins (b) and Kevin Dorn (d). Given that this album was recorded last November, the mood then wasn't that much different from the tenor of the Great Depression of the '30s: A critical government failure, a national economic hit and the gloom most people felt hoping the protracted nightmare would end soon.

The album's tracks are My Honey's Lovin' Arms, Foolin' Myself, Right or Wrong, Squeeze Me, Last Night on the Back Porch, Angry, I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good, Ragged but Right, I'm in Love Again, I'd Love to Take Orders From You and A Blues Serenade. All have the peppy lachrymose of another time, when there was 25% unemployment and you took your fun where you could get it. Arrangements are by Mike Davis, except for A Blues Serenade, which is by Alexander.

Sweet Megg and Alexander skillfully revive the busy sound of jazz in the 1930s, a style that emanated from speakeasies in Chicago and Kansas City and wound up in New York. Vocals sounded boozy and instruments seemed to careen without colliding. Megg's voice is sultry, but as you listen, you can hear her bending notes and digging in with command and confidence. Alexander is a whiz on the reeds, providing a masterclass in 1930s jazz. Best of all, he's playing his instruments in the dry style popular back then.

This album could easily have veered off course if the musicians chose a campy interpretation. Instead, their skills, knowledge and feel for the bygone decade are authentic. Vocals and instruments wrap around each other as jazz went to work chasing your blues away. This album is both an education and a reminder of how jazz helps raise spirits when hope fades and the darkness seems never-ending.

JazzWax premiere clip: Here, for the first time online, is Squeeze Me...



Here's a beautiful rendition of I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good...



And here's Angry...



      

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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