License to Swing
Initially inspired by the guitar-violin duets of Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli developed a distinctive group sound for the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, with lead and two rhythm guitars, violin, and bass. The album 'License To Swing' continues that tradition featuring the jazz violin and the guitar. Original tunes and classics from the 1930s and later form a charming and danceable collection of songs appealing to all age groups. John Reynolds picked up the banjo at the age of 11 and played it throughout high school in various dixieland and jug band groups. His focus shifted to the guitar after he heard Eddie Lang on the 1926 Jean Goldkette recording of 'Sunday.' His enthusiasm for the instrument reached new heights when he discovered the recordings of Django Reinhardt. He studied with George Smith (of the Paramount Studio Orchestra; Eddie Lang's sub when Bing Crosby needed an accompanist). Reynolds and Crawford first met at Disneyland in 1978. He is the grandson of the early Hollywood star and character actress, Zazu Pitts. Benny Brydern studied violin and piano at the Richard-Strauss Academy of Music in Munich. He was invited to the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival to perform in the Festival Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Bernstein in 1988. He returned to the Festival in 1990 for the TV series 'Orchestra!' hosted by Sir Georg Solti and Dudley Moore. Benedikt composed the music for Jon Voight's Award-winning film 'The Tin Soldier', the Miramax Documentary 'Rhyme & Reason' and several other films. He frequently performs with Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys, Dean Mora Modern Rhythmists, Marie MacGillis Model Millionaires and other vintage ensembles. My theory on restaurants is that well - designed advertising material means fine food. Now I find that it also applies to music. The cover painting of the musicians first attracted me to License To Swing. I entered, liked what I heard, and stayed to listen. Benny Brydern is classically trained on violin and piano. He is also a composer and film scorer whose musical career has brought him together with Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, Etta James and Sinead O'Conner. Fortunately, none of this has interfered with his becoming a hot, very hot, jazz fiddler. John Reynolds, a strong rhythm guitarist, started on banjo at 11 and switched to guitar after exposure to recordings by Eddie Lang and Django Reinhardt. The two men are associated with many West Coast vintage ensembles. Talk about eclectic! Their style, described as 'inspired swing from the 1930s,' pays homage to their predecessors - Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Eddie Lang, and Django Reinhardt. However, License To Swing includes 'oldies' (pre-1920), standards, classical music, originals and songs from the 1960s. Standards range from a romantic 'Embraceable You' with a tasty solo by Reynolds to an exuberant romp through 'Crazy Rhythm.' Oldies feature the novelty tune 'Raggin' the Scale,' recorded by Lang and Venuti in 1933, an easy-swinging 'Ja-da' and 'Tiger Rag.' I rate 'Tiger' as 'hottest of the hot ' with Franz Lizst's 'Dreams of Love' a very close second. Another classic, 'Borodin's Swing' is the duo's take on what eventually became 'Stranger in Paradise.' Arthur Hamilton's 'Cry Me a River,' a one-shot hit for both Hamilton and Julie London, is played with the beauty it deserves. Bobby Hebb's 'Sunny' and three Lennon- McCartney songs represent the sixties. 'Michelle' seems meant for the violin. I would have preferred more ballads - perhaps 'Yesterday' or 'Eleanor Rigby' - as they appear to offer more opportunities for improvisation than tunes like 'Can't Buy Me Love' and 'Hard Day's Night.' Brydern contributes two originals. His 'Winter Dreams, ' played by the Hot Club of California, is a bonus in more ways than one while 'Djangrappellogy, ' as you might suspect, is the essence of gypsy jazz. On Reynolds' feature, 'Falling in Space,' the guitarist displays a whistling talent that reminded me of Bing. Benny Brydern and John Reynolds know their way around their instruments and their enthusiasm is palpable. They love this music. You will too. Jazzreview.com.
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