This unique, acclaimed sextet presents the polish, heat, and energy of the great swing bands. This album presents some of the most interesting and exciting items from their eclectic repertoire. The Swing Legacy is essentially a little big band, and their original arrangements make the group sound larger than six pieces. They are widely known for their impeccable musicianship, combining polish with exuberance, and they swing mightily! Over half the songs feature vocalist Debby Larkin, whose sunny, commanding musical personality complements perfectly the band’s extrovert style. Many of the numbers have a pronounced Count Basie mood, feel, and swing. So, if you like Basie, you’ve come to the right place at the right time!
The CD includes:
• plenty of hot jump numbers in the right tempo and style for lindy hop and jitterbug dancing
• original arrangements of Swing classics — “Don’t Be That Way”, “Corner Pocket”, “Topsy”
• some classic standards from the “Great American Songbook” — “S’Wonderful”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, “You Took Advantage of Me”
• new settings of some familiar material — “Sesame Street”, “Night Train”
• plus some relatively obscure musical gems
Some Excerpts From CD Reviews and Testimonials:
I listened to every cut, and I couldn’t find one that I wouldn’t play on the air. They are all fabulous — the arrangements, vocals, everything. This is one of the greatest swing/big-band CDs out there, and you will get a lot of air play from me. You have one fine band!
— Jim Stone, host of Big Band Swing on WLNZ Radio
This is a fun CD that has many great, danceable songs just made for lindy hoppers. I definitely have no problems telling you this one should be in your library. Go out and buy it.
— Terry Gardner, Strutters Quarterly, Fall 2006
The Swing Legacy achieves a (big) little-band sound, thanks to the imaginative writing of leader Henry Francis. Henry Francis is not only an accomplished writer but also a master of that almost lost art — stride piano — which he demonstrates with aplomb. The versatile Debby Larkin adds considerably to the success of the CD with some charming vocals. The Swing Legacy brilliantly recreates the jump-band style of the 1930s and 1940s, and it is easy to see why it is in demand for dances around the Boston and New England areas.
— Gordon Jack, Jazz Journal International, December 2008
This is the second CD by an extraordinary swing band, the likes of which don’t often record (or hardly even exist) anymore, it seems. If you are sick and tired of the junk that is being passed off as jazz these days, you definitely need this disc to restore your faith. If you enjoy dancing, you’ll groove on this CD all the more. The arrangements by Henry thins Francis are a delight. Henry is a fine pianist, as well, of course, with stride being a particular specialty. After playing this CD many times, I still find vocalist Debby Larkin to be an absolute joy. She just takes each song as it comes with no sense of trying to impress anyone with phony vocal gymnastics. When she’s finished a tune, I find myself thinking: yes, that’s the way that one ought to sound. She is truly a treat along with this band.
— Russ Chase, IAJRC Journal, December 2006 (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors)
The Swing Legacy is a small “jump” band devoted to the swing music, north of Sidney Bechet and south of Charlie Parker, that seems neglected these days. This CD is a good example of what the band does well — compact solos, focused singing by Debby Larkin, capable ensemble playing, and a widely varied repertoire that doesn’t involve transcriptions from the original recordings. Henry Francis is a fine pianist and arranger — someone who voices a sextet as they did in the old days, so that it summons up a much larger band.
— Michael Steinman, Cadence Magazine, August 2007
“Even the Chickens Are Dancing” is a polished collection of songs in the rhythmically exuberant, sometimes rowdy style of jazz called swing. The quality of musicianship is always first-class, the playing is clean and energetic, and there are some stunning moments of soloing. Half of the songs feature Debby Larkin’s rich, natural voice, and she delivers the goods with an appealing straightforwardness. Leader Henry Francis has a gift for creating endlessly imaginative arrangements. Every song reflects an original contribution, each with an extraordinary combination of rhythmic, melodic, and instrumental color. This is the most compelling CD I’ve heard in a long time.
— Robert Humphreville, Groton Quarterly, May 2007
1. ON REVIVAL DAY
This song was given life in 1930 by the great blues singer Bessie Smith. It depicts a rocking, stomping Black revivalist church meeting.
2. THEY CAN'T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME
A Gershwin classic, here taken on a leisurely walk by Debby Larkin.
This song is a cry of anguish, intensified by its minor key.
4. FISH FOR SUPPER
We will now entertain you with a "nonsense novelty" number from 1942, which swings nicely.
5. EARLY AUTUMN
Composed by jazz pianist and arranger Ralph Burns, with lyrics by the master romantic wordsmith Johnny Mercer, this sensuous ballad has long been a favorite of Debby's.
6. HAPPY-GO-LUCKY LOCAL (aka NIGHT TRAIN)
This is the fourth and last movement of Duke Ellington's "Deep South Suite" (1946). A quintessential Ellington tone poem, depicting all the sonic details of a little country train that stops at every station (hence "Local") and is leisurely drawn by a lumbering, puffing, clanking, wheezing steam engine which makes beautiful music containing some exquisite "wrong" notes. Note Duke's fugal dialog (unusual in jazz) among the three horns in the first ensemble section. Some years later, the former Ellington sax player Jimmy Forrest assembled the song "Night Train", which became a huge hit for him. All its principal themes were taken from "Happy-Go-Lucky Local", a classic instance of music piracy.
7. DON'T BE THAT WAY
One of the many fine swing song hits (such as "Stomping at the Savoy") written by Edgar Sampson. For a while, it was Benny Goodman's theme song. Because of its fast-moving, wide melodic intervals, it is extremely difficult to sing, but Debby negotiates the rapids with ease.
Another Gershwin classic.
9. SESAME STREET
Since 1970, the TV show "Sesame Street" has been feeding kids daily doses of high-quality music, thanks to composer Joe Raposo.
This was composed in 1937 for the Count Basie band, but really came into its own in 1958 with drummer Cozy Cole's hit record. As strange as it may seem today, it was then still possible for a good jazz recording to attain pop notoriety. Here, Steve Giunta does justice to the honorable genre of the tom-tom drum solo. This track was recorded in 1998, but there was not enough space to include it on our first CD. Same personnel, but with Phil Person on trumpet and Dave Chapman on alto sax.
11. BLACK COFFEE
This bluesy ballad originally appeared in 1938 as "What's Your Story, Morning Glory", and was later given new bittersweet lyrics to become "Black Coffee".
12. THE LITTLE GOOSE
An obscure gem from the swing era, written by guitarist/composer/arranger Brick Fleagle. This piece has an unusual form, as well as an inscrutable title.
13. CORNER POCKET (aka UNTIL I MET YOU)
Composed in 1955 by guitarist Freddie Green as an instrumental for the Count Basie band, it was later given lyrics to become "Until I Met You".
14. YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME
A charming song by Richard Rodgers which has long been a standard. Throughout this arrangement, the mood changes steadily from sweet to hot — progressing from a tea dance to the Savoy Ballroom.
15. KANSAS CITY BOOGIE WOOGIE
This piece is a collage of up-tempo blues riffs, boogie-woogie piano figures, and blues lyrics characteristic of 1930's Kansas City, a hot-bed of musical creativity which nurtured such jazz stalwarts as Count Basie, Lester Young, and Big Joe Turner, to name just a few.
16. KEEPING OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW
No CD would be complete without something by Thomas "Fats" Waller, the renowned pianist, singer, ebullient entertainer, and prolific songwriter. He was the most famous, and one of the best, exponents of a unique style of piano playing known as stride piano, which evolved directly from ragtime music but is firmly anchored in the mainstream of jazz. Henry, who is marinated in Waller's music and hence known as "thins", seizes this opportunity to demonstrate the stride piano idiom. This is Waller's companion piece to "Ain't Misbehaving", expressing the same sentiments.
MUSICAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE PERFORMERS
HENRY thins FRANCIS — Piano, Arranger, Leader
Henry performs in the styles of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Fats Waller (hence the name "thins") — all of which are lamentably seldom heard today. Henry is best known as a stride piano soloist, but he finds wearing his other hats in The Swing Legacy equally enjoyable.
DEBBY LARKIN — Vocalist
Debby is one of Boston’s premier jazz vocalists. Her principal influences are Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Julie London, and Peggy Lee, and her singing consistently echoes the jazz tradition. She has a huge repertoire drawn from the classic era of American song, and although she reinterprets the melody as all good jazz singers do, she always respects the original beauty of the songs.
TODD BAKER — Bass
Todd is one of the few bass players today who has the desire and skill to produce a big sound without electronic assistance — a dying art, unfortunately. He is also one of the precious few who can provide the percussive attack and staccato notes required to propel idiomatically a swing rhythm section.
STEVE GIUNTA — Drums
Steve contributes both fire and precision to the rhythm section, his percussive accents tastefully punctuating and supporting the ensemble passages. Furthermore, he understands the indispensable role of the high-hat cymbals in driving a swing rhythm section.
MIKE PEIPMAN — Trumpet
Mike, from Australia, is a rare breed — a trumpet player who is both an excellent big-band lead trumpet and a fine jazz soloist in all the idioms from New Orleans to bebop.
TED CASHER — Tenor sax, Clarinet, Flute
Ted's tenor sax has the full, rich, deep sound and rhythmic swagger of the great "Texas Tenors" such as Herschel Evans and Illinois Jacquet — a valued and unique attribute. This contrasts perfectly with his clean, limpid clarinet voice.
JOHN CLARK — Alto sax, Clarinet, Baritone Sax
John, usually heard in the early-jazz context of his own Wolverine Jazz Band, here contributes a hot, authoritative solo voice in the swing idiom, on all three instruments. John's playing is fueled by his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history.