Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Big Easy – “The Big Easy” album review

Amongst a certain cohort of music aficionados there is an interest in a genre known as “electro swing”. Essentially this incorporates the rhythms and atmosphere of early swing giants and fuses them together with contemporary beats to produce, in many cases, an exhilarating and electrifying sound.  The Big Easy, from Leeds, have gone straight back to the early swing sound of Louis Armstrong and Louis Prima and given it a modern yet authentic make over. On this recording the band incorporates Jon Scully on trumpet and vocals, Troy Faid on guitar and vocals, Chris Lloyd on piano, Thomas Maddison on double bass and Laurence Marshall on drums. The mood from the very outset on “It’s the Rhythm in Me” is one of a group of musicians coming together, playing the music they love, and drawing the listener into their world with enthusiasm. Arguably the mood softens on such eternal jewels as “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance”, but the overall mood is one of unbridled joy and love for the music. “St Louis Blues” is given a laid-back tango feel that helps to infuse new life into a well-known tune.
The production is tight and crisp and allows each player individual voices room to be heard. The soloing is virtuosic without appearing self indulgent, and augments rather than detracts from the melodies. Many could argue that the production is almost too sterile for the type of music that is showcased here, but that is irrelevant if the listener fully contextualises these pieces.  Nina Simone’s  “My Baby Just Cares for Me” is another tune that has been covered and reinterpreted in many ways on numerous occasions, but somehow The Big Easy have given it a prevailing flavour whilst remaining faithful to the original mood. Lovers of popular music who had their interest in swing music piqued by the recordings of Joe Jackson and the like, would be well advised to broaden their acquaintance with The Big Easy. In many ways, without the contemporary vocal, the passive listener would be hard pressed to date this recording at all.
Swing music has infiltrated many peoples lives, whether they like it or not, for many years in films, television and modern sampling techniques, so the music here should not be too unfamiliar to most. As advertised on their website, The Big Easy are available to play pubs, clubs, private parties and weddings. On hearing this release the listener can appreciate how the band can give any event a dose of infectious and enthusiastic playing which not only acknowledges their love of swing, but also brings it to a twenty first century audience in a setting that they can fully understand.  And with a live setlist that can incorporate the music of Dr John, Dusty Springfield, Van Morrison, The Beatles and Mae West, there is a realisation that the musicianship here does not end with swing, but encompasses influences satisfyingly far-reaching. 

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