In the world of blues and various forms of vintage music, the path chosen by this Southern California based chanteuse is one less traveled. That road is the swing music of another era. There was a time when the music championed on this brand new 2017 release on the Vizztone label by Adrianna Marie, was the popular music of the day. It was when, in fact, swing really was king. Big bands crisscrossed the country playing dance halls and supper clubs to large enthusiastic audiences who were familiar with the material being presented. This music also dominated the relatively new medium of radio.
That era was interesting from a historical standpoint for many reasons, not the least of which was blacks and whites were making similar music with often distinct regional dialects and accents that didn’t necessarily reflect any type of racial predisposition.
These horn driven units often had a featured female vocalist, sometimes called a canary or songbird. All ornithological nicknames aside, these singers were the stars of the show, as is Adrianna Marie here on Kingdom of Swing.
In the early 20th century, this music had percolated out of the purview of much of the listening public, as it had been the exclusive providence of America’s African-American population since the turn of that century. In 1935, Benny Goodman changed all that and this music was now the rage with just about everybody. Yet the music of the War years was also falling victim to the social and economic strains that World War II placed on all facets of American society. By 1945, the Swing Era was in rapid decline. As an art form it was now competing with other types of music most notably rhythm & blues, various strains of proto rock & roll, as well as the emerging bee bop form of jazz, which stripped some of these bands of their best players.
Bands started to pare down to smaller combos. The band Marie and her producer Duke Robillard employ reflects this time. This ten piece, little big band sounds as huge as anything one hears today, yet is more representative of this period at the end of the swing era.
The other aspect of this recording is that it also reflects what, at the time, represented the new liberation of the electric guitar. Duke himself plays on one track, as does Junior Watson. The rest of the guitar duties are carried out by the very capable, albeit lesser known, L.A. Jones. Electric guitar pioneers Tiny Grimes, Charlie Christian and, of course, the big daddio of the instrument, T-Bone Walker and his subsequent protégés such as Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King, are all taken out for a spin by these modern masters who apply their own musical sensibilities to these sounds.
The rhythm section of pianist Al Copley, bassist Kedar Roy and drummer Brian Fahey lays down a tasteful groove and lets the big, by today’s standards, horn section, rip up the joint.
That five piece horn section is comprised of players who are either current or former members of the Providence, Rhode Island, based musical institution known as Roomful of Blues. They are baritone sax man Doug James, tenor player Mark Early and Rich Laitille on alto. Doug Woolverton plays trumpet and the trombone duties are handled by Carl Quaforth. All five men play on all of the album’s fourteen tracks.
Seven of the fourteen tunes on Kingdom of Swing are originals, giving the release a freshness that makes the album more than just a tired reenactment, which often plagues other attempts at mining these wonderful sounds.
The covers are mixed in and add just the right amount of timeless familiarity to the proceedings. As far as the singing of Marie is concerned, she has found her niche. This material and accompaniment are the perfect fit for her.
It is great to hear this music performed with such care and reverence by a team of true professionals who have been playing this, or other very closely related music, for most of their lives. Marie’s deft choices, musical sensibilities and attention to detail pay big dividends on this recording. She is truly the queen in this Kingdom of Swing.
- David Mac