The Swing Legacy’s CD, “Dancing on a Blue Moon” (TSL-04),
is available for $15.00 plus $2.00 shipping ($5.00 overseas) from
Mephistopheles Records, 16 Sunnyside Lane, Lincoln, MA 01773.
Several different payment options are available.
To sample some of the music, you can listen to audio clips.
The sad thing about this CD is that not enough voters will have heard it to include it on their “Best Records of the Year” ballots. This is a small group deeply oriented in the fine tradition of “jump bands”. Its leader, Henry “thins” Francis, has provided the band with arrangements to make the group sound much larger than it is. The band captures perfectly the essence of what it is supposed to do. Upon my first hearing, it was startling. From then on, it was great anticipation as to what was going to happen next as the disc progressed. Not one solitary disappointment came my way. It swings! Carol Akerson, the band’s extraordinary vocalist, fits the group like a glove. She knows what the music is supposed to sound like, and delivers. I cannot recommend this recording too highly.
— Russ Chase, IAJRC Journal, Winter 2000 (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors)
The Swing Legacy brings an exceptional understanding to the music of the Swing era. Henry “thins” Francis and his band appreciate the repertoire and the musicianship behind these great compositions, and they honor the full range of emotions that underpinned what is too often misrepresented these days as merely facile, good-time music. This is one of the rare class acts of 21st Century jazz classicism.
— Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe
Their original arrangements create a much larger sound than the number of players would imply. The instrumental background to most of the jazz solos gives great depth — a truly BIG small-band sound. Carol Akerson is a superb jazz vocalist, and her inventive styling complements the musical personality of the group. The name is fitting — swing, they do!
— Ted Belastock, Quarter Notes, September 2001
The Swing Legacy is a great compact band carrying on the traditions of big band swing. “Dancing on a Blue Moon” brings back the days when swing was the thing. Classy and stylish, with inspired arranging, playing, and the delightful vocals of songbird Carol Akerson; a must-have for dancing and listening pleasure!
— Bo Lewis, host of Big Band Dance Party on WNAV Radio
Henry “thins” Francis takes this opportunity to introduce his band, The Swing Legacy, a tight little unit expressly designed to play the pianist’s Swing Era-inspired charts and to provide a platform for some of today’s lesser known soloists of quality. In addition to Francis’ always appropriate piano and the Ella Fitzgerald-tinged voice of Carol Akerson, Ted Casher especially impresses with his “Texas tenor” sonority and sense of swing, while his clarinet solos are models of poise and elegance. All of the soloists play with a genuine love for the idiom and no little familiarity with the styles of their predecessors. This is a very spirited release by a band that knows how to swing in an authentic style. In no way should The Swing Legacy be thought of as one more of today’s opportunistic, rock-weaned groups masquerading under the banner of Swing. Dig the real swing and shun the impostors!
— Jack Sohmer, The Mississippi Rag, December 2000
The aptly named Swing Legacy plays big band swing with a small band lineup, in the manner of the jump bands of the 1930’s and 40’s. They’re at the forefront of their style, outdistancing any of the neo-swing pack with an invariably entertaining set. The sound is much fuller than the lineup suggests because of the arrangements of leader/pianist Henry Francis, who has clearly studied his craft well. So much of the group’s success is due to the quality of their ensemble play. If the label “girl singer” is dated, the style, as practiced by Carol Akerson, isn’t. A fine ballad singer with a knack for scat and vocalese, her contributions on 6 tracks are among the disc’s highlights. This is a disc full of highlights, with songs drawn from such stellar books as Ellington, Basie, Brubeck, and Waller. The band, a seasoned group of Boston-area pros, plays dance music well worth simply listening to and earns copious respect for the respect they show for one of the great jazz styles.
— Shaun Dale, JazzReview.com
The Swing Legacy is a six-piece jump band featuring well-conceived arrangements by leader and piano player Henry thins Francis, which make the band sound much bigger than they are, a lot like the John Kirby Sextet of 1938-41. The group is made up of musicians from the Boston area, all of whom have very impressive jazz and swing resumes. Carol Akerson, who vocalizes on six of the cuts, reveals her affinity to Ella Fitzgerald on “Blue Moon.” Another Akerson highlight comes with a swing arrangement of Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking”, where she shows off her considerable scatting skills. This album is over 73 minutes of good players performing good music. Recommended.
— Dave Nathan, All Music Guide
Here’s hoping your feet are ambidextrous, because if you can only tap along with one, you’ll wear it out. This local outfit takes some inventive liberties on the arrangement of “Blue Moon”, and there couldn’t be more fun on record than “Lounging at the Waldorf”. This is a great big earful of sound coming from only six players. Adventurous vocalist Carol Akerson neatly caps off a half dozen numbers, really shining on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “Undecided”. Both “The Duke” and “Azure” are enjoyably odd pieces.
— Ed Symkus, The TAB
I like this Massachusetts band. They play authentic swing, and they play it well. I particularly like the female vocalist, Carol Akerson — she’s expressive, on key, and her singing suits this style of music. The song selection is refreshing, and the arrangements are delightful.
— Ron Bloom, Ron’s Swing CD Reviews
On their CD, “Dancing on a Blue Moon”, this seven-piece charges out of the gate with eyes on the prize, and does not relent. Finger-snapping goodness without a blare or honk that doesn’t belong. Carol Akerson’s voice is masterful, and the ivory-strokes of Henry Francis are simply divine. This band knows how to play blue. The stray minor-in-a-major’s and pratfalling arpeggios give the music a vivacity and beautiful humanity. This collection of classic covers from the Harlem Renaissance (and beyond) is perhaps my favorite album of the year.
— Dante Murphy, Atomic Magazine, 2003
The Swing Legacy is, as its name suggests, a continuation of the legacies of such greats as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Count Basie, and Louis Jordan. The Swing Legacy shows us how real jazz and blues-based dance music should be played. This six-piece band goes far beyond the number of players. Intricate arranging, talented “multi-tasking” musicians, soulful vocals, and a contagious passion and energy make this small band as much a big band as one is likely to hear these days. I got the great pleasure of seeing The Swing Legacy in an intimate setting, and I must admit that my desire to jump up and dance was just as great as when our fair city was graced by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. This CD belongs in any collection. Listen, move, groove, dance.
— Chris Angelakis, Amazon.com, 2000
This album presents a pot pourri of the most interesting and exciting items from their fascinating eclectic repertoire of idiomatic original arrangements — plus some great singing by Carol Akerson.
hot jump numbers for lindy hop and jitterbug dancing — “Flying Home”, “Undecided”, “Hoof It”
some superior songs — “Blue Moon”, “Willow Weep for Me”, “Some Other Spring”
two Duke Ellington “indigo mood” pieces — “Azure”, “Transblucency”
two up-tempo Count Basie swing classics — “Taxi War Dance”, “Super Chief”
two groovy, strutting blues — “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”, and “Sweet Daddy Spo-de-o”
a “jump for joy” Fats Waller number — “Lounging at the Waldorf”
a swing version of Fats Domino’s R&B hit — “I’m Walking”
Dave Brubeck’s tribute to Duke Elllington — “The Duke”
an avant-garde gem by Coleman Hawkins — “Queer Notions”
Two songs from this CD, “Sweet Daddy Spo-de-o” and “Hoof It”, have been used in a national TV advertisement for Louis Jadot, and on several network TV shows, including “Sex and the City”.
Although jazz is and always has been evolving, its evolution has produced various mature styles (swing being one), each of which is worthy of preservation and exploration. The Swing Legacy demonstrates that musical creativity and artistic viability can be achieved today in a noncontemporary jazz idiom. Analogously, musicians continue to perform Beethoven, and the public pays to hear them do so.
The tempos are given in beats per minute (bpm)
Total playing time 1:13:09
Henry thins Francis, leader, arranger, piano
Carol Akerson, vocals (#s 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 16)
Todd Baker, bass
Steve Giunta, drums
Phil Person or Mike Peipman, trumpet
Dave Chapman, alto sax, clarinet
Ted Casher, tenor sax, clarinet
Billy Novick, guest soloist, alto sax, clarinet
1. Super Chief — Composed by Jimmy Mundy for the Count Basie band, this is the quintessential “train number”. The Super Chief was the fastest and most deluxe train between Chicago and Los Angeles, and its aura is evoked perfectly by this piece.
2. Blue Moon — This famous Rodgers & Hart song displays an elegant simplicity, and lends itself admirably to this groovy, laid-back approach.
3. Lounging at the Waldorf — A tribute to the ebullient Fats Waller (who wrote it), illustrating why Henry is known as “thins”.
4. Willow Weep for Me — This treatment of Ann Ronell’s classic song was inspired by a recording by guitarist Wes Montgomery.
5. I’m Walking — Written and originally performed by Rhythm & Blues pioneer Fats Domino.
6. Sweet Daddy Spo-de-o — This strutting blues includes a bit of humorous vaudeville jive, and thus harks back to the days when jazz was both art and entertainment, with a healthy sense of the ridiculous.
7. Some Other Spring — This majestic song was composed by Irene Kitchings, who had good taste in musicians — she married both Teddy Wilson and J C Higginbotham.
8. Queer Notions — Composed in 1933 by tenor saxophone icon Coleman Hawkins, this extraordinary piece makes imaginative use, both melodically and harmonically, of the six-note whole-tone scale. A shocker in 1933, Queer Notions is likely to remain avant-garde forever.
9. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be — This earthy, hip blues is one of the many interesting numbers composed by Duke’s son Mercer. Carol Akerson pays homage to the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross, and trumpeter Mike Peipman pays obeisance to Cootie Williams.
10. Hoof It — This salute to the fraternity of jitterbugs was composed by a committee chaired by Henry.
11. The Duke — Dave Brubeck composed this unusual piece as a tribute to Duke Ellington.
12. Taxi War Dance — The great tenor saxophonist Lester Young composed this stomp number for the Count Basie band, using the harmonic structure of the ballad Willow Weep For Me (see #4), an ingenious and successful idea. Lester had observed that when the Broadway theatres disgorged their audiences, there ensued a frenzied scramble for a limited number of taxicabs, which to him comically resembled a tribal war dance; hence the title.
13. Transblucency — Ellington was obsessed with the color blue, thus his many “blue” titles. “Transblucency” (subtitled “A blue fog which you can almost see through”) is similar in feel to “Mood Indigo”. The beautiful melody which comprises the second theme was devised by Ellington trombonist Lawrence Brown.
14. Flying Home — This aggressive number was Lionel Hampton’s theme song.
15. Azure — Another Ellington “blue” number; this atmospheric piece is from 1937. In the section following the piano interlude, the harmony becomes virtually atonal — Duke, as usual, was ahead of everyone.
16. Undecided — An uncomplicated riff number, composed by the great trumpeter Charlie Shavers, which has for 60 years provided countless bands (and singers) with a perfect vehicle for romping and stomping.