The Swing Legacy’s CD, “Even the Chickens Are Dancing” (TSL-05),
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.
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. I like your salute to Fats on a couple. 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 the second offering from The Swing Legacy. The band comes out swingin’, and this album has lots of gems suitable for lindy hoppers. They kept the top-notch musicianship, mixed in some great tempos, popular swing tunes, and some lesser known tunes, and came up with a CD that should be in every dancer’s library. 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. He creates a variety of tone colours in the driving, riff-oriented ensembles, making full use of Ted Casher and John Clark’s abilities to perform with real distinction on no less than six instruments. Their solo high spots are too numerous to list, but Casher’s beefy tenor — reminiscent of Illinois Jacquet — adds lustre, while Clark’s baritone brings Ernie Caceres to mind. The group also has the benefit of a fine lead trumpeter — Mike Peipman — whose solos illuminate. 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. Debby’s interpretation of “Black Coffee” rivals the great Peggy Lee’s 1953 version. 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. Especially so if you revere the small jump bands of the thirties and forties. 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. The rhythm trio was together on the first disc. Todd Baker swings and is a strong and accurate bass player. Drummer Steve Giunta succeeds in not letting the group stand in one place too long. John Clark is a fine clarinet, alto, and baritone saxophone player, and complements the tenor man who impressed me so much on the earlier disc, Ted Casher. And he still impresses, with that marvelous Southwestern style and sound. Trumpet man Mike Peipman sparks the band’s charts with his superb ensemble blowing. He’s skilled at that part of his job, but his cup overflows, as he is also a remarkable and exciting soloist. 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 simply exudes naturalness. 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. It was a particular pleasure to hear Joe Raposo’s “Sesame Street” theme. 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. The kind of piano Francis plays — idiomatic yet original — is always in short supply.
— 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. You’ll find yourself looking forward to what musical magic he will be working next. This is the most compelling CD I’ve heard in a long time. If you like good music, if you love listening to swing artfully arranged and played, or if you’re just a chicken who loves to dance, then this is a CD you should have in your collection.
— Robert Humphreville, Groton Quarterly, May 2007
Up Boston way there is a well-named group, The Swing Legacy, that plays a steady diet of small-group swing and jump blues that is plain old fun music. Each of the players sounds like he is having a fine time, and Debby Larkin is just the kind of vocalist that suits a group like this — hard-swinging, assertive, and worldly-wise. This is a disc that contains unmitigated musical pleasure.
— Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz, September 2006
This album presents some of the most interesting and exciting items from their eclectic repertoire of idiomatic original arrangements. Over half the songs feature vocalist Debby Larkin, whose sunny, commanding musical personality complements perfectly the band’s exuberant 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
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 1:13:05
Henry thins Francis, leader, arranger, piano
Debby Larkin, vocals
Todd Baker, bass
Steve Giunta, drums
Mike Peipman, trumpet
Ted Casher, tenor sax, clarinet, flute
John Clark, alto sax, clarinet, baritone sax
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.
3. EVENING — 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.
8. S’WONDERFUL — 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.
10. TOPSY — 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.