This six-CD box set pays homage to Alice Babs, the Swedish jazz singer who died at the age of 90 in February, 2014. A soprano with a three octave range, she sang with Duke Ellington
, most notably in his so-called sacred concerts.
At the start of her career, in 1940, at the tender age of 16, Babs (real name Nilsson) was vilified in the Swedish press as a slyna
, the politest translation of which is "hussy."
The critic who attacked her so viciously for her role in the film Swing it magistern (Swing it, teacher)
said she should be given a good spanking and sent back to school.
Instead she went on to sing with the Swedish Jazz All Stars who were a hit at the 1949 Paris jazz festival and with Danish musicians Svend Asmussen (violin) and Ulrik Neumann (guitar) to form the Swe-Danes, whose highly original brand of close harmony and vocalese won them international acclaim from 1958-61.
Unfortunately, Babs also sang a great many extremely schlocky pop songs and, as a result, only the first two CDs are of any real interest to jazz fans.
However, the first, Jazz and ballads
, is very good indeed, showcasing Babs' formidable vocal abilities andon three tracksher instrumental talents. She was an above average pianist and onceat Ellington's insistenceplayed for him and Billy Strayhorn
Perhaps she recalled what must have been a daunting experience as she played and sang Strayhorn's quaintly titled "I'm Checkin' Out, Go'om Bye," included here.
There are great versions of "After All I've Been To You," played to her own accompaniment, and of Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss," with Harry Arnold's Orchestra during which she sings a sensitive wordless accompaniment to Ove Lind's clarinet solo.
Twelve of the tracks feature various constellations headed by pianist Bengt Hallberg. Standouts: "So Many People," "Memories Of You" and "No Words Blues," which is just that, "composed" by Babs and Hallberg on the spot.
There's even a snippet of Babs singing (wordlessly) on "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" in an early encounter in 1963 with the Ellington band in Paris.
The second CD, devoted to the Swe-Danes, is a marvellously light-hearted affair in the spirit of Slim Gaillard, though the arrangements are actually often extremely complex. On "Swe-Danes Symphony" the trio imitate a full symphony orchestra.
Their American hit, "Scandinavian shuffle" is also included, along with "Lullaby of Broadway" on which they mix the English and Swedish versions, Babs using her phenomenal voice to great effect.
The other CDs are devoted to her pop output with, here and there, references to jazz. Gems include "Ingo cha-cha," a tribute to Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson, who in 1959 beat Floyd Patterson to become heavyweight champion of the world. There's "Ta't lugnt, ta en Toy
," a commercial for Swedish chewing gum andworst of all"Skandinavien
," a number extolling the dubious delights of Scandinavia as a tourist destination.
CD 1: After All I've Been To You; I'm Alone; Willow Weep For Me;
What Becomes Of Me/But Not For Me; A Man; No Words Blues; I Didn't
Know What Time It Was; If I Were Eve; So Many People; Memories Of
You; Song For The Dreamer; A Sailboat In The Moonlight; I'm Gonna
Move To The Outskirts Of Town; St. James Infirmary; Nobody Knows
You; Bluer Than Blue; After You've Gone; Dancing Together; I'm
Checking Out Go'om Bye; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Prelude
To A Kiss; I Can't Give You Anything But Love.
CD 2: Skål (Swe-Dane Shuffle); Scandinavian Shuffle; Swinging
In A Hammock; Side By Side; Georgia Camp Meeting; Hot Toddy;
Lullaby Of Broadway; Den Lille Ole Med Paraplyen; Go Chase A
Moonbeam; You're Driving Me Crazy; Miss Annabelle Lee; Swe-Danes
Symphony; Swe-Dane Shuffle.
CD3: En Gång I Stockholm; Ensam Jag Går; Fråga Mig
Inte Varför;Le Lite Grann; Lilla Geisha; Månbubblor; Lile
Astronomi; Visa I Molom; En Ollonnborr Är Varenda Fråga;
Hambo; Filosofisk Dixieland; Råttjakt För Två;
Pudelvisan; Det Var Sommar/Parkernas Stad; Blotta Tanken; Det
Är Vår; Fröken Vår; Il Bacio; Johnny One Note;
Den Gamla Kommoden; Vaggvisa Till Radiorecensent/Little Man,
You've Had A Busy Day; Villanelle; Mot Kveld.
CD4:It's Wonderful; I May Be Wrong; Hey Diddle Diddle; Swing Fula
Fluga Swing; I Double Dare You; Oh-ho-ho-ho; Swing Swing Girl;
Regntunga Skyar; Swing It Magistern; En Oharmonisk Visa; Be-bop-
knopp; Coffee Calls For A Cigarette; Mitt Eget Blue Hawaii;
Vårat Gäng Potpurri.
CD5: Sommar Sommar Sommar; Fritiof Och Carmencita;
Sommarmålning; Gökuret; En Gång Jag Seglar I Hamn;
Emil/Min Vår, Din Vår; Det Vore Välan
F'runderbart/Wouldn't It Be Loverly; Josefon; Du Och Jag/I'm For
You, You're For Me; Kyss Mig Varje Morgon/Love Me In The Daytime;
Tro På't/High Hopes; Here Comes Summer; Puerto Rico;
Skandinavien; Res Med Mig; Ingen Är Som Du; Desafinado;
Vår I Stadsparken; Primavera; Under Ett Paraply; Kolonivisa;
Home With You; Go Chase A Moonbeam; Det Är Inte Sant;
Låt Mig Bli Din.
CD6: It's Been A Long, Long Time; I'm The Words, You're The Music;
Våran Bil; Hemma Igen; Ingo Cha Cha; St Louis Blues; Det
Går Ännen Fort; Tradadiralla Di Ralla; Sprid Lite Sol
Omkring Dig; Tandem; En Sliten Liten Melodi; You Make Me Feel So
Young; I Want To Be Happy; Vildandens Sång; Plugget; Ta’t
Lugnt, Ta En Toy; Lollipops To Lipstick; Han Kom Från Texas;
Dong, Dingeldang, Dingeldong; Der Kleine Muck; Ich Hab' Dich Und
Du Hast Mich; By The Watermelon Vine Lindy Lou; You Say The
Sweetest Things; Lady Be Good; Dinah.
Alice Babs: vocals with diverse musical accompaniment.