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The Boswell Sisters: Nothing Was Sweeter Than

Nic Jones By

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Jazz vocal groups have never been thick on the ground, and insofar as there is any such lineage at all, it's safe to say its existence is largely down to the Boswell Sisters. Their harmonies amounted to the opposite of sibling rivalry, and the liberties they took with tempo and key changes were to have a positive effect on a young Ella Fitzgerald and others.

The trio lacked the transformative powers of Louis Armstrong, who after all could give musical and human substance to even the tritest ditty, but then most mortals did. The sincerity of "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye, cut in August of 1932 with the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, is a good example of just what the sisters did derive from Armstrong, however—especially when they sound so liberated in the up-tempo section, which is as good an example as any of artists getting the better of at best indifferent material. Their version of "Heebie Jeebies exhibits a very different kind of exuberance, and the fact that they don't set themselves up for comparison is a feat in itself.

"Sing A Little Jingle, cut in May of 1931 in the company of Victor Young and the New Brunswick Orchestra, is a case in point regarding the ditties. The arrangement, even though it was of course fashioned for times more innocent than these, is sickly to the point of being a hazard to dental health. Fats Wallers' "It's You, however, is surely irresistible to all but the stoniest of hearts, and Connee Boswell's solo vocal lines have about them the air of a true jazz singer, so sure is she in the liberties she takes with the lyric.

"Put That Sun Back In The Sky could have been so much corn with lesser voices, but the sisters lend it hues of blue that might have been far removed from the composer's intentions, before upping the tempo to a frantic level—and they succeed not only in putting that figurative sun back where it belongs, but also in making it joyously hot.

In focusing on a four-year period, this collection provides a snapshot in time of this group's development, and such has been the influence of their music that it's transcended that time and become a part of the broadest continuum.


Track Listing: We

Personnel: Martha, Helvetia (Vet) and Connee Boswell: vocals (1-25), accompanied by various orchestras.

Title: Nothing Was Sweeter Than | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: El Records

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