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Album Review

The current swing revival, a very healthy development that has given younger dancers an opportunity to jitterbug to four/four music has, ironically, resulted in quite a bit of erratic music. Some of the so-called swing bands are really just playing rockabilly, '50s pop, or mere imitations of Louis Prima and Cab Calloway mixed in with R&B from later periods. But there are a few groups that really are playing swing, including singer Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. The talented Smith has an appealing voice that sometimes sounds close to Dinah Washington's, but it's also flexible enough to handle material ranging from Bessie Smith to Anita O'Day. And, although the singer gets top billing, her instrumentalists are just as strong. The debut set by the Red Hot Skillet Lickers features heated and romping solos by trombonist Larry Leight, altoist Bill Stewart, tenor Harvey Robb, and Noel Jewkes on tenor, clarinet and baritone, along with a driving four-piece rhythm section. Pianist/arranger Chris Siebert is responsible for the inventive charts, which are sometimes a combination of earlier recordings and always leave space for solos. The material includes some blues, swing standards (such as "Blue Skies," "Squeeze Me" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"), and lots of riffing. The music is a joy. The fact that Lavay Smith's San Francisco ensemble has been able to benefit from the swing revival shows that it is possible to perform music that is both popular and quite swinging.

One Hour Mama, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
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