The Swing Era, which began in the early 1930s and lasted for almost two decades, produced some of the most celebrated bands, renowned musicians and memorable songs in the history of American music. Even so, it has become a vague and distant image, barely remembered or acknowledged by the present generation of rappers, rockers, hip-hoppers and heavy metal enthusiasts. Fortunately for those who do recall fondly the days when big bands criss-crossed the country and dancers crowded into ballrooms, auditoriums and nightclubs to hear them and share the magic, there are a handful of contemporary ensembles such as Tracy Wells' California-based Big Swing Band who honor that bygone era and help keep the memory alive.
In recreating and nurturing the ambiance and excitement of the Swing Era (and beyond), the Big Swing Band does more than simply go through the motions. Wells has assembled a group of seasoned professionals whose commitment to the music is evident. They know what swing is about, and clearly enjoy paying their respects to such noted predecessors as Benny Moten, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Ted Heath, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton, Artie Shaw, Sy Oliver and Jan Savitt. This is dance band music of the highest order, ably performed by an ensemble that would have been quite at home sharing the bandstand with any of the legends named above.
Nearly all of those bands had popular vocalists, most of them female, and Wells has an impressive leading lady of his own in Ginger Berglund whose clear, sultry voice is heard on five numbers (Wells sings on two others, "At Long Last Love and "720 in the Books ). There is only one departure from the tried and true, a new composition ("That Same Old Feeling ) by Tom Kubis who also arranged Sammy Cahn/Gene DePaul's "Teach Me Tonight. Admirable solos abound, with features for vibraphonist Wells on "All of Me, trumpeter Steve Stassi on the Kenton tribute, "I've Never Been in Love Before, tenor saxophonist Bob Efford on "That Same Old Feeling.
Even though the Swing Era is gone forever, those who missed it can, thanks to groups like the Big Swing Band, at least experience, however briefly, the ardor and excitement that were an indispensable facet of those thrilling days of yesteryear (to borrow a phrase from another symbol of that time, the Lone Ranger). A thousand or two more bands like this one would be most welcome.
Moten Swing; I Love Being Here with You; Teach Me Tonight; All of Me; I
Tracy Wells: leader, vibraphone vocals; Darrel Gardner, Pat Mullen, Steve Stassi, Dan Bryan:
trumpet; Kim Richmond, Charlie Orena: alto saxophone; Bill Jurney, Bob Efford: tenor
saxophone; Fred Peters: baritone saxophone; Charlie Morillas, Dave Ryan, Jerry Wheeler:
trombone; Rich Bullock: bass trombone; Gerry Schroeder: piano; Doug MacDonald: guitar;
Ernie Nunez: bass; Frank DeVito: drums; Ginger Berglund: vocals.
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