Jazz CD Reviews

The Swingle Singers – Weather To Fly – World Village

A unique and refreshing approach to a non-traditional songbook.

Published on October 22, 2013

The Swingle Singers – Weather To Fly – World Village

The Swingle Singers – Weather To Fly [TrackList follows] – World Village, 450025 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] 43:51 ****:

(Swingle Singers: Sara Brimer; Joanna Goldsmith-Eteson; Claire Wheeler; Oliver Griffiths; Christopher Jay; Kevin Fox; Edward Randall)

In their 50th Anniversary Year, this iteration of The Swingle Singers has not strayed all that far from their original configuration, which came out of a Paris-based group called The Blue Stars under the direction of Blossom Dearie, then subsequently morphed into the current group name under the direction of American Ward Swingle from 1962 until 1985. The intent was to “swing” classical and baroque works with a jazz rhythm section employing scat vocalism. This new offering entitled Weather To Fly showcases a cappella renditions of compositions by Chick Corea to Beyoncé to The Beatles.

Always looking to push the frame in which the human voice operates, the group is undaunted as they embark on the title composition “Weather To Fly” which shows their vocal dexterity and range. Confirming the notion that anything musical can be sung, Chick Corea’s “Spain” is given the group’s beat box style wherein some singers offer percussion sounds over which others sing the words. This style also works well when the group tackles Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” although it is done in purely vocalese with Sara Brimer showing her abundant technique at the top of the vocal range.

While the group’s roots are in Bach and other Baroque composers, they have never been reluctant to bring their unique and complex counterpoint harmony to popular music which they do here in brilliant fashion starting with Beyoncé‘s “Single Ladies” re-imagined as “Swingle Ladies”. Equally impressive is their take of the Florence and the Machine number “Shake it Out” on which Sara Wheeler does the solo honors. Also due for singular recognition is the Lennon/McCartney opus “Lady Madonna,” which is brought to life in a vivacious and spirited style. There is a bonus track on the album and that is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” which is given a passionate and vivid reading.

In today’s world where jazz/popular singing groups all seem to be put through a blender, The Swingle Singers offer a unique and refreshing approach to a non-traditional songbook.

TrackList: Weather To Fly; Gemiler Giresune; Spain; Nana; Woman In Chains; Swingle Ladies; Shake It Out/Danse Macabre; Hiding Your Smile (Song For Winter); The Diva Aria; Fugue For Autumn; Libertango; Lady Madonna; Poor Wayfaring Stranger

—Pierre Giroux




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