Swing is a word…

Swing is a word…

A review was forwarded to me that appeared on your Web site earlier this year on the J Street Jumpers’ Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby . In it, I find uninformed assumptions that become passed (like gas) as fact. Reading reviews like it reaffirmed my thought that everyone has had least two things, and one of them is an opinion.

While it is old news and long since disappeared from your site I wanted to at least give you the correct information. Your opening lines claiming that this is just another band trying to cash in on a current fad is what sent you off in the wrong direction. Most of the performers of the Jumpers have been working the talent-rich DC area since the early to mid ’70s staying close to the blues they love. The J Street Jumpers formed around 1994/95 from the remains of another big band swing outfit, the Uptown Rhythm Kings, which worked the area for at least 8 years before that. To have survived this business while trying to pay 8 or 9 musicians definitely qualifies it as a labor of love. (The words “cash in” have made them all roll their eyes) They were performing “Jump Jive an’ Wail” for years before Brian Setzer got the wild hair to issue it. With the Jumpers, it is a situation of a fad catching up with their love of a style of music they remain committed to.

It is unfortunate to judge the players’ motives based on what a record label does. The Mapleshade method for recording can be a tough one with no second chances to correct mistakes with a cut in. If there is a mistake the whole song has to be redone. That is Pierre’s way. In the Jumpers’ case, it drained a lot of the feeling. Live, the band shows incredible energy and passion, which is what pulls me in. While the Mapleshade disc has its problems, it did finally shine a spotlight on a deserving and superb group of players. I would love to have the opportunity to just go out and roll tape on these guys every night. They are now working on their own self-produced project that will showcase their great energy.

It may surprise you to learn that the DC area has had a long and incredibly vibrant club scene that has produced such icons as Link Wray, Roy Buchanon, Danny Gatton, Roy Clark, the Night Hawks and many more. The Jumpers are a product of that breeding ground. You can find the core of the band backing Nap Turner on his release Live at City Blues , which is receiving critical acclaim, and there is one cut from the Jumpers on the compilation The Blues You Would Just Hate To Lose Vol. II , which lays out the DC area club history.

If you desire more info on some of the music and players in and around DC, visit my web site http://www.rightonrhythm.com

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Julio Diaz responds: Thanks for your impassioned letter, Wayne. While “uninformed” may be a fair characteristic of my review of the Jumpers’ album, since it appeared with no fact sheet on the band, nor did the liner notes give any indication of their history, the bottom line is that I felt the album was more than a little weak. While this may have been a result of the recording process, the recording is all I had to judge the band on. Hearing a CD full of anemic-sounding covers which came out after the swing trend exploded, I made the obvious assumption that they were a “cash in” outfit. You say that’s not the case, and I have no reason not to believe you. But the band also should realize that the record is all that most people are going to know them by, and if it wasn’t an accurate representation, maybe they should have thought about scrapping it (yeah, I know, easy for me to say, I’m not the one paying to record it) or not allowing something they considered to be less than their best work to be released.

I did give the record several spins before reviewing it, and it just never stuck to me. We do pride ourselves in giving every record an in-depth listen and on giving our unvarnished, honest opinion when it comes to reviews. We’d be more than interested in reviewing the Jumpers’ next release, especially if it’s more indicative of your descriptions than the album I heard was.

I will concede that swing is a very difficult genre to capture effectively on an album, as the energy is vastly different in a live setting, but it can be done — check out Ron Sunshine & Full Swing (reviewed in this very issue), for a start.

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