The nostalgic swing music of the 30s and 40s is making a come back of sorts in a new release from the Divine Art label based in the United Kingdom. The new album is titled Five-Fifteen: A Tribute to the BBC Dance Orchestra. Performed by the internationally known musician and theatre personality, Mart Sander and a 16-piece orchestra from Tallin, Estonia, The Bel-Etage Swing Swindlers who have specialized in the British swing and stage music. Also part of the Swindlers band are two female vocalist, Kelli Uustani and Marlina von Uexkull who accompany Sander on the majority of the songs.
This album pays tribute not only to the BBC Dance Orchestra, which broadcast its music throughout Europe from 1927 to the 60s, but in particular to Henry Hall, bandleader who led the band for a brief time in the pre-war period of the late 30s. Under Hall’s direction the band played the gentle slow dance music of the era that was less of a big band sound and more of a lighter upbeat and fun style of play. Much of the music has an obvious jazzy overtone and flavor that would fit nicely under the broader interpretation of the swing/jazz genre.
The CD contains 25 tracks of that old time music from familiar classics to uncommon standards. Cole Porter’s “It’s D’Lovely” is a spunky rendition of this old classic that the band plays well. “Avenue of The Trees” is one of many slow soft pieces with some fine vocals from Sander and Uustani. “Keep Young and Beautiful” is a grand big band number with a faster upbeat pace. I really enjoyed the Whiting & Mercer “Too Marvelous For Words” that finds Sander on deep baritone vocals. Another wonderful song is “What A Difference A Day Made” in which Uustani sings to the heart. “Some Day My Prince Will Come” marks the entrance of Marlina von Uexkull who possesses a truly sweet voice. We all know the Warren/Mercer tune “Jeepers Creepers,” well on this version all of the singers collaborate with the band on a fine jazzy number. “Yours and Mine” is one of the few cuts that is almost all instrumental until the near end when Sander sings a verse. “Pagan Love Song” is another track that starts off very jazzy with the ensemble playing a chorus only to be interrupted by a trio of singers. That is not a criticism only an observation because there are no instrumentals with this type of music.
I’ll pull no punches here; this CD may not be for everyone. Enthusiast of the modern mainstream big band jazz sound may not appreciate the lighter, bubbly and softer dance tempo found in Five-Fifteen. The album does provide a wonderful and enchanting glimpse into the past innocence of a by-gone era that brought people together whether near the radio or on the dance floor. The music is delightful on many fronts. Sander does a magnificent job singing with emotion while the ladies add a cheery and heavenly touch and the band plays with the tightness of a small combo and the energy of a larger group. This album will appeal to a more mature audience and yet offer a slice of musical history to us all.
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