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Jazz Sebastian Bach (Remastered)

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Album Review

The Swingle Singers' scat vocal jazz swing arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach classics were among their most popular material, particularly in Europe (where they actually enjoyed some chart success in the U.K.). Accompanied by nothing more than double bass and drums, the octet distributed their vocal parts equally among two sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and two basses, favoring brisk tempos. Occasionally, indeed, they were so brisk they verged on hyperventilation, as on "Prelude No. 1 in C Major" and the version of "Fugue No. 5 in D Major" drawn from "The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1." They do slow things down once in a while on numbers like "Aria" (from the composer's "Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major") and parts of "Sinfonia," which tend to tilt the mood a little more toward the classical. The album's inventive but a little white bread in its relentlessly wholesome, upbeat tone. Pop fans might hear echoes of the Swingle Singers' work, whether direct or coincidental, in the harmonies of artists like the Association and the Beach Boys, and a U.K. rock group, the Belfast Gypsies, a spinoff of Them, actually based its "Aria of the Fallen Angels" on the Swingle Singers' reading of "Aria" on this album. [Yoyo reissued the album in 2008, with alternate cover art.]

Biography

Formed: 1962

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A French vocal group famed for tackling all manner of classical material (Baroque, fugues, madrigals, orchestral overtures) and switching them to an a cappella swing setting, the Swingle Singers was formed in Paris during the early '60s by American expatriate Ward Swingle. By the time of their 1963 album debut, the group comprised eight voices — Swingle, Christiane Legrand (sister of Michel), Jean-Claude Briodin, Anne Germain, Claude Germaine, Jean Cussac, Claudine Meunier...
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