Probably no one is asking forlornly, “Are the Big Bands going to come back?” because we once thought we knew the gloomy answer. But hearing this disc, I feel bursts of swinging optimism cascading around me. Brooks Prumo Orchestra has done the best magic: evoking past glories without imitating them. If you heard this disc from another room, you might think, happily, that a new cache of Bill Savory’s discs has descended from Heaven (something that will, in fact, be true soon) — but these musicians are alive and ready to swing out on their own terms, in their own remarkable voices.
And speaking of voices, this is my first real introduction to Alice Spencer, who has one of the greatest voices I have heard in this century — supple, witty, multi-colored — and she knows what to do with it.
Artwork by Laura Glaess.
The songs: BOLERO AT THE SAVOY / DICKIE’S DREAM / BENNY’S BUGLE / NOTHING TO DO BUT HANG WITH YOU / LOSERS WEEPERS / DINAH / JUMPIN’ WITH SYMPHONY SID / SWING, BROTHER, SWING / SIMPLE SWEET EMBRACE / SIX CATS AND A PRINCE / PASS THE BOUNCE / ESQUIRE BOUNCE / JUMP JACK JUMP / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / THE LAST JUMP (A JUMP TO END ALL JUMPS – SILVER SHADOWS) / STARDUST.
And, lest you feel overwhelmed by words, you can go here and hear the CD.
Now, “a mission statement” from Brooks:
“The Brooks Prumo Orchestra was created for swing dancing.”
For me, big band music from the Swing Era is my favorite music for swing dancing. I wanted to put out an album only of tunes that were either original compositions, original arrangements, or remakes of tracks where the original version did not have a good recording. Please take a look at the inside liner notes for info about each track. Hopefully this release is a positive contribution to the world of swing music and swing dancing! In addition to the tracks themselves, I also wanted to hit a wide range of tempos for dancing. This album has songs at approximately the following tempos: 235, 230, 225, 210, 190, 180, 175, 160, 155, 145, 140, 135, and 125 beats per minute. Every single song on this recording holds a special place in my heart. I truly hope you enjoy it and thank you for your support!
The Musicians: Alice Spencer, vocal; Hal Smith, drums; Ryan Gould, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Brooks Prumo, guitar; Marcus Graf, Adrian Ruiz, trumpet; David Jellema, cornet, clarinet; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Greg Wilson; alto sax; Dan Torosian, alto sax, baritone sax; Jonathan Doyle, tenor sax, clarinet; Lauryn Gould, tenor sax, soprano sax.
About the music: some of the names above will be familiar to you if you’ve heard The Thrift Set Orchestra, the Sahara Swingtet, or Jonathan Doyle’s groups. And certain names in that personnel have well-deserved star status. Worth repeating: musicians have praised Alice Spencer to me, but she comes through this CD like a gorgeous swing breeze, with a big wink, as if Joan Blondell had taken swing lessons and graduated at the head of her class.
The rhythm section of the BPO is just peerless. And let us say “Hal Smith!” all together, reverently.
The sections hit together wonderfully, and the solos — often by Jellema, Doyle, Gonzales, Walton, Ruiz — although everyone gets a taste — are idiomatic yet free. I know there are charts on this session, but the band and Alice swing out from their hearts.
The only side-effects from this music might be silly grinning and bouncing around one’s domicile, and these side-effects will persist after the disc is no longer spinning. Don’t tell your doctor: tell everyone!
The repertoire draws on Basie, Goodman, Krupa, Shaw, with a few original arrangements and original tunes thrown into the mix — performances that evoke Commodore and Keynote sessions, Lester Young, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday, Andy Kirk. But the BPO is not a machine devoted to “playing old records live”: they sound wonderfully like a 1940-44 Basie small group with a few extra friends along for the joyride.
PASS THE BOUNCE contains highly seductive music. Even though my ballroom dance instructor and my neurologist suggested — a decade apart — that I was not going to impress anyone on the dance floor, this CD makes me feel as if I can dance. Even better, that I should be. It’s that lovely and encouraging.
Make your holiday season rock . . . or any season. This CD is seriously joyous. Grab a few copies here — or if you prefer to download and stream (having it your way) that door is wide open as well. And the BPOrchestra’s Facebook page is here.
It is more reassuring than I can say that such music is getting played and recorded: maybe the end of civilization as we know it can be postponed for a bit?
May your happiness increase!