The Magazine Articles Reviews The Bar ATOMIC Girls Gallery Venues Bands Retro Radio Forums Shopping



Big-T & the Bada-Bings


The Jive Aces Swing Through Europe!
By John Fordham

The Jive Aces are currently in the middle of a 52-city tour through Europe, which started in Sweden in January and will end in Greece this December. Not since Ellington and Armstrong has a swing band undertaken a tour of this magnitude. To tell the full tale would be a novel in itself, but saxophonist John Fordham has sent us a few tales from life on the road with the U.K.’s top swing band…

We’re in Paris and it’s croissants and coffee to start the day. We take a walk along the Champs Elysees and get whistled down by an enthusiastic art director, who asks us to pose for a picture for a French magazine with a pretty model. What do you expect when you’re all wearing matching red suits? Then we continue on to the bandstand, where we’re scheduled to give a lunchtime concert. As we swing into our first number, "Sweet Georgia Brown", I scan the crowd, which I later learn is made up of tourists, Parisians, two women from the American embassy, some students from Egypt, and a park keeper. Most are seeing a live swing band for the first time, and they stay for the whole show, mesmerized by the spinning bass and raunchy horn solos. Their eyes dart from one end of the stage to the other like spectators at a tennis tournament. Then the crowd suddenly parts, making a path for a little guy on a moped. He pulls up next to the bandstand and strides purposefully toward us. He produces a comb and paper from his jacket pocket, puts it to his lips, and plays the best damn "Swing Georgia Brown" comb solo I ever heard! (If you’ve never heard a comb player before, it sounds like a soprano sax, and this guy is like Sidney Bechet reborn.) The crowd loves him, so we invite him on stage for another song. Turns out he’s an antiques dealer and jazz lover, and he gives us a roman coin for good luck before he leaves.

After the gig, we head off to see the sites and notice posters for a Natalie Cole show that night. Aaaaahhh! Brainwave! The drummer is a friend of ours, so we track down his hotel room and give him a call. We end up with free tickets to a great show and get to meet Natalie after. Just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen when you walk around Paris.

Next we head to the city of Berlin, where there are still bits of the wall separating East from West. As we enter the city, I am closely following some British wartime maps, which are stunningly accurate. They’re in a true story I’m reading about a British undercover operation in 1944 called "Operation James Bond," headed by Commander Ian Fleming, Royal Naval Intelligence. It’s heroic stuff, which gets us in the mood to blow down the remnants of the wall with some hot swing! We arrive at our gig and the waiting fans help us bring in our equipment. As soon as we take the stage, they’re jumping out of their seats from the first note and applauding feverishly. Guess they like us! A friend of the owner’s must love Ken’s bass playing, as he runs over and hugs him after each solo. Word of mouth moves fast in Berllin, and we are booked into two other clubs by the end of the night.

At last, Italy! Another currency change…I think 4,000 Lire buys a coffee. The people here are lovely, and everyone seems to own a mobile phone. We play a big concert in the street, and as we set up, the faces on the passers-by tells me they aren’t used to seeing a double bass, spectator shoes, or matching red suits! The girls all giggle and the guys look at us with Al Pacino intensity. But as we kick into Louis Prima’s "Buona Sera", the crowd sways in time to the music. It’s the most swingin’ stuff they’ve heard since Dean Martin hit the Italian charts with "Volare" and they’re loving it. Then a cop walks over and we wonder if he’s going to give us a ticket for obstructing the street. Nope…he wants to book us for a police charity concert! We exchange numbers and he walks off to direct traffic. I love Italy!

After Italy, we head off to the more sedate surroundings of Zurich. We’re booked to do a live radio show; however, the producer suddenly realizes we’re called "The Jive Aces" and not "Oasis," a famous British pop band. (A slight misunderstanding, resulting from a poor phone connection.) The show is cancelled, and we’re thoroughly bored walking the streets when we hear a distant trumpet. We follow the sound and find a circus, with a great band playing music for acrobats, jugglers and clowns. The rasping trumpet makes me think of the great Harry James, who started off as a young boy playing lead trumpet in a circus band. The day is not a total loss.

Back to berets and baguettes. In Lyon, we play outside a quaint old French café, and before long, a group of French swingers arrive and start to cut a rug—or in this case a slab of pavement. The head dancer is named Claudio, a lovely guy who informs us that Lyon is the swing capital of France. With only a few days’ notice, he spreads the word that we’re in town and arranges a killer gig for dancers only. They dance all night, and we bid Claudio farewell at 4:00 a.m. By this time, we’ve sold out all our CDs and are ready to hit the hay!
After a quick visit to London for a National radio show, we’re back in the land of snail eaters, this time in Nice, on the South coast. We drive from the airport to the venue and set up on the terrance of a large music café which faces onto a huge square in old Nice. We kick into our opening number and a huge crowd quickly forms, as people wander over from all the other cafés in the square to see what’s going on. A few Lindy hoppers arrive and take the floor to show off some fancy steps. The international crowd love dancing as much as they love the band, and after the show, they all want to learn to Lindy and find out where they can see us again. It’s always great to see the enthusiasm on the faces of people who’ve been swung for the first time and are completely flipped over the whole thing.

These are just a few tales from our tour thus far. Still to be swung are Edinburgh, Scotland; Athens, Greece; Jerusalem, Israel; and other cities. Keep an eye out…there’s more to come! To read more about The Jive Aces, check out the Winter 2000 issue of ATOMIC or go to

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Dear Dottie
1999 Article List
2000 Article List
2001 Article List
2002 Article List
2003 Article List
2004 Article List
Thrift Store Record Reviews
Up Close Squirrel Nut Zipper's
Frontman Jimbo Mathus
Catchin' Up With Claude Trenier
How to Make Out to a Monster Movie
In Remembrance of Swings Past
Interview with Dean Mora
I Want Candye!: Candye Kane
Silence Is Golden:
Exploring Early Cinema in
Present-Day Hollywood
Jive Aces Swing Through Europe
Beatin' The Chops:
Pictures Of Lulu
Girls, Cars & Tattoo Charms
Lavay Smith:
The Divine Miss Thing
Spats: A Return to Civilized Attire
My Girlfriend Loves Elvis
Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?
Adventures in Vintage Expoland
The Melody Lingers On
Shake Your Wicky Wacky Woo!
High Noon At The Hoot:
Rockabilly Hits Orange County
Pep, Vim 'n' Verve:
Bill Elliott Bounces To Stardom
The Grand Dame Gets Her Due: Louis-Dahl Wolfe
Mermaids In NYC
Recycling Vintage Rings
Kearney's Got The Cure
You're Invited to a
Hawaiian Dinner Party
Can Broadway Swing?
Swing Therapy
Thelonious Monk:
Music Of The Sphere
ATOMIC Bares All!
Pennies From Heaven
Beatin' The Chops:
Just Dance, Dammit!
Bump & Grind Southern Style:
New Orleans' Shim Shamettes
Lady Day Speaks


© 1999-2009 ATOMIC Magazine, Inc.
ATOMIC Magazine Inc., 917 Orchid Drive , Lewisville, TX 75067
All site content, including images and text, is copyright © 1999-2013 ATOMIC Magazine, Inc. &
This material may not be reproduced, borrowed, or used for any purpose except by written permission of the copyright holder. Terms and Conditions of use.