Shakin' When Stirred
Nouveau's Shakin' When Stirred (Swing Nouveau) is comprised
entirely of tried and true "potboilers" of the swing
genre. The danger when selecting material like Freddie Green's
"Corner Pocket," Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A
Train," or any other of the classic tunes on this album,
is that such great versions of them already exist. Consequently,
the best one can hope to achieve is either to equal the originals,
or to approach them in such a new way that one's own rendition
carries some weight.
Swing Nouveau have done neither. From its start, Shakin' When
Stirred shows signs of promise with slick ensemble playing,
good arrangements, and a fine rhythm section. Indeed, some of
the drumming is excellent, fulfilling the great big band tradition
of "kicking the brass in the ass," as arranger and producer
Don Sickler once said. Unfortunately, most of the soloing and
vocals fall short in quality compared to the ensemble playing.
On a chorus of "Corner Pocket," a member of the brass
fudges a note of the head melody! How could they leave that in
the mix? Aside from a few inspired moments, the instrumental soloists
(not specified by track) seem to be fumbling and searching, while
the vocalists (again, not specified) rarely transcend passable.
so many great versions of "Mack The Knife," "It
Don't Mean a Thing," and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie"
already in existence, tackling these tunes is a tall order, even
for really sharp, experienced singers. The tentative deliveries
here, some of which are buried in the mix (intentionally?), don't
match the caliber of many existing renditions, and don't possess
enough originality to give the standards their own spin. Although
the arranging is very able and there are some smooth tempos to
dance to, Swing Nouveau regrettably fall at least one vocalist
and a couple soloists shy of the marka mark set perhaps
unfairly high by the greats before them.
the band at www.swingnouveau.com.