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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


The Blue Saracens
What's a Saracen?

The Blue Saracens have many strengths, but perhaps the strongest component of their new CD, What's a Saracen?, can be summed up in two words: great arranging. The horn section arrangements throughout are tight, fun, and tasteful. The clarinet—an instrument inexplicably absent from many neo-swing combos—is used to great effect. In addition, Michael "The Commissar" Hashim's Coleman Hawkins-like breathiness and vibrato on his tenor work and drummer James G. "Lieutenant Jim" Petropoulos' use of cowbell percussion show us that this band really goes the extra mile to capture the sound of an earlier era.

Of course, it's hard to go wrong when you're playing American popular standards by greats such as Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. But the soloing is adept and confident by all, and the song choices are excellent. The originals are good, too. "When Johnny Gets With the Jive" is at once funny and darkly familiar, being about a bungling newcomer to the swing scene.


Hear Samples of
What's A Saracen?

He Beeped
St. James Infirmary
Oo Bop Sha'Bam
When Johnny Gets With The Jive

(Requires Windows Media)

Visit the band at

Vocalist Nicole Frydman is very musical, but at times, I wish she'd strike a more even balance between melody and diction. She has a tendency to smear a lot of her words, and whether this is a choice or a habit is unclear. This one misgiving was mitigated, however, by her rich tone. Indeed, on "St. James Infirmary," Frydman puts her cards on the table and delivers a strong vocal performance. The gal has power.

Dance freaks will love the consistently moderate tempo of most songs. It takes chops to play laid back and keep a groove. Advanced dancers will have room to dig in and get silly, while beginners will have time between beats to correct themselves. Although What's a Saracen? is probably not destined for the charts, it represents the work of a well put-together group with a luscious horn section.

- Chris Orbach

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Big Rude Jake—Big Rude Jake
Big Tubba Mista—Knock One Back
Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra—
Swingin' The Century
Bim Bam Baby—Who Am I Gonna Love
Black Jacket Racket—Volume II
Blue Saracens—What's A Saracen?
The Camaros—Evil
Casey MacGill & The Spirits of Rhythm—Jump
The Delegates—Delegatin'
George Gee & His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra—Swingin' Live
Got Swing?—Volume I
The Music of Harry Warren—
Swing! Here and Now
House of Blues Swings!
Indigo Swing—Red Light
Jet Set Six—Livin' It Up
Lisa Stansfield—Swing: The Movie
Mob Hits—Volume I
Mora's Modern Rhythmists—
Mr. Rhythmist Goes To Town
Ray Gelato Giants—The Men From Uncle
Rockabilly Hall of Fame—
VolumesI & II
Royal Crown Revue—Walk on Fire
The Yalloppin' Hounds—
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  Retro Film Reviews
Swing!: The Movie
  Retro Reading Reviews
The Swing Book—Degen Pener
Musichound's Swing!; The Essential Music Guide




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