Those with longish memories may recall the UK's brief swing revival of the mid 1970s, when the 70s soul played by UK DJ Chris Hill at his gig at Canvey Island's "Goldmine" briefly ceded its domination of that Essex venue's dancefloor to the orchestras of Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb and Benny Goodman. "Goldmine" goers caught swing fever for, ooh, at least 10 minutes - and attracted the attentions of Britain's national press in the process - before tiring of dressing up like their parents and grandparents every weekend and returning to the safer and more familiar environs of the Salsoul Orchestra and their ilk.
A couple of decades later, and a few thousand miles away in California, things were again 'in full swing'. This 'revival', though, was not the flash in the pan that the earlier British equivalent had been. As well as embracing the great records of the original 1930s/1940s orchestras, the 1990s West Coast Swing scene thrived on, and was fuelled by, a number of bands that played original material with the same fire and passion as had the past masters from whom they drew their inspiration. A further decade on (and several unfulfilled prophecies of its demise later) said scene continues to flourish - each weekend, scads of dancers jitterbug and lindy hop their way through the night like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard had never happened, to a balanced mixture of live bands and hot records from the music's first Golden Age.
Those live bands are well represented elsewhere on CD, but until recently there has been a dearth of compilations devoted to this 'local phenomenon with international appeal'. Ace's Let's Jump!, put together by renowned collector/songwriter/performer/all-around mine of information and long-time L.A resident Billy Vera, remedies that dearth in part, and also offers a man-on-the-spot's perspective on what's still keeping California jumpin' more than half a decade after the swing thing originally kicked in. Those expecting wall-to-wall jivers might be initially surprised to find that BV's swing panorama also takes in frantic bebop, rockin' doo wop, boisterous blues shouting and even a brace of instrumental smoochers. But as Billy himself will tell you, the scope of the scene allows plenty of room for this kind of musical interloping. And as for the slowies, well, even the most driven of dancers have to chill out from time to time, don't they?
This compilation - drawn exclusively from masters originally recorded for, or acquired by, Modern Records - may be primarily aimed at Swingers. But you don't have to be exclusively a swing fan to appreciate the content here. You don't even have to be from California. The appeal of this music transcends boundaries of category. Its content is sure to excite all fans of R&B and rock'n'roll, thanks to Billy's astute inclusion of splendid sides by the Flairs, Gene Phillips and Oscar McLollie. And we promise, too, that renowned jazzers like Ike Carpenter, Ben Webster and ex-Benny Goodman saxblaster Vido Musso also rock pretty hard when the mood demands, as it often does here. To add to Let's Jump!'s all-round appeal, many of its tracks are making their first appearance on CD. Several others have never been reissued since their original appearance on 45 or 78, and there are even one or two cuts that are receiving their world premiere issue (Don't worry I've already thanked Billy on your behalf...)
...roll back the rug, get on the floor, Swing is king forever more. Do YOU wanna jump, children?
By Tony Rounce