Ron Sunshine & Full Swing
“Oh, please, not another damned swing record,” I moaned when this disc showed up in the mail. While I’ve loved swing music since I was a kid, I’m more than a little burned out on the current wave of trend-hoppers, most of whose cliché-ridden lyrics and warmed-over attempts at swing are more moth-eaten than their grandfather’s zoot suits. I grudgingly stuck the disc in the CD player, wholeheartedly expecting the worst.
Surprise! From almost the first notes of Straight Up , Ron Sunshine & Full Swing reminded me of everything I ever loved about swing music. Sunshine and his combo are tight and on the money with a set made up almost equally of classic (but fairly obscure) covers and fresh originals. I love the fun little touches that make this record so special, like the dead-on syncopated vocals on “Hit That Jive Jack,” the call for a sax solo with a rousing chant of “sax-a-ma-phone!” on “Enough For You,” and the delightful counter-melodic vocals on “Lounging at the Waldorf.” A tasteful, understated harmonica underscores several tracks, giving an old school blues feel and adding some meat to the bones of these tunes. Other highlights include “Red Light” and the tasty “Salt Pork, West VA,” but there’s not a bum moment to be found here.
Straight Up is that rare breed of album — a disc that left me slack-jawed with wonder at it’s quality, integrity, and musicianship from start to finish. This is one band that’s more than just flash and “retro” hipsterisms. If the bevy of trend-hoppin’ daddies can be equated to the fog of oh-so-trendy cigar smoke that surrounds the so-called modern swingers, then Ron Sunshine & Full Swing are a much needed breath of fresh air.
Royalty Records, 176 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; http://www.royaltyrecords.com