When invited recently by certain parties to pen the back-panel notes for the latest contribution to the pantheon of recorded swing, this writer, despite a not undeserved reputation as a correspondent on the subject of jazz, balked. Let the listening public accept the offering at face value! What, it was wondered, might be observed that would add to the enjoyment and appreciation of this collection? Nevertheless, as the individuals in question could not be deterred, herewith are offered these considerations:
The distinct and unique category of jazz that has come to be known amongst its practitioners, proponents, and the (often perplexed) public as “swing,” found itself a few years ago in a lamentably moribund condition. Though recorded examples of “hot music” featuring accessible improvisation, clever lyrics, a danceable rhythm section, and crooning clarinet are available to the intrepid explorer of many labels’ re-issued catalogues, experiencing the music performed live had become a rarity. Further, the canonization of “standards” and shifting focus of songwriters’ attentions had curtailed that aspect of the art form’s original creativity. Enter onto this scene the newly-formed ensemble which calls itself “Jack’s Cats,” dedicated to reanimating classic swing through live presentation of traditional, small-group jazz, along with original compositions written and performed in a period style. And yet time has not stood still: The musicians have burnished the music until it is as much a thing of the modern era as it is steeped in tradition. Chord structures uncommon in mid-20th century popular music, syncopated rhythms and accents made smooth-flowing, and lyrics that hint at today’s world create an effective time warp. Audiences eagerly listened, danced, and enthused that the “Cats” should produce some record of their live act to serve not only as a memento for those attending a performance, but for the enjoyment of the “hep” crowd who are unable to put in a personal appearance. And so you have the disk before you.
This music is about spontaneity, unassuming joy, and the musical conversation between those inspired by swing. It is in this spirit that the recording was produced. The outstanding jazzmen (and jazz-woman) of Jack’s Cats were invited to a recording studio where, first in brief rehearsal and then before a small but lively audience, they marshalled their talents to record in the manner of musicians in the early days of jazz – live! With only the most informal of arrangements, the songs were played as you hear them, and after the evening’s two-hour performance, forty-two minutes were selected and edited together to best represent the essence of the session. Captured is the excitement, unplanned riffs, and occasional inconveniences inherent in live performance; elements which the modern recording studios’ magic has rendered obsolete. The results are as notable for their faithful reproduction of a live, in-person, Jack’s Cats performance as they are as an expression of the timeless spirit of jazz.
~ Your correspondent,
Halifax, Nova Scotia