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Review

Recreating the magic of old jazz in Europe

This seven-member band with a long performing tradition concentrates on happy, fast-paced stuff

On the Road
The Dutch Swing College Band
Polygram
Rs 95

The Dutch Swing College is, as its name implies, a jazz college based in the Netherlands, with a band that performs and records regularly. Indeed, the band is perhaps the most famous jazz group in the country and one that has a long-established performing tradition.

The saddest thing about this collection is that the album cover carries no information about the performing artistes. It can't be a convention of the college, because an older album, Digital Jubilee, carries full information about the personnel of the septet whose live performance was recorded.

From the sound of this album, it's most likely to have been in the same septet format. One can clearly discern a clarinet, a trumpet (or cornet) and trombone, the usual line-up of melody instruments in Dixieland jazz. There is also, unusually, a fairly prominent baritone sax, almost unknown in Dixieland and, even in swing music, not a leading solo instrument. These four take on the bulk of the soloing. From the rhythm section the banjo (a fixture in Dixieland that gave place to the guitar by the time swing took the stage) pitches in quite often with solos.

Although the line-up is almost typically Dixieland, the music is not exclusively so despite comprising several famous Dixieland hits. For one thing, a couple of Duke Ellington hits, Mood indigo and East St Louis Toodle-oo, are included among the material covered here. Besides, the style of performance, although leaning strongly towards Dixieland in rhythm, draws strongly on the swing custom of solo improvisation rather than the collective improvisation (trumpet, trombone and clarinet improvising simultaneously but differently) that was the characteristic feature of Dixieland. In fact the soloing is if anything stronger than in swing, reflecting the consciousness of its importance that pervaded the old styles after modern jazz in the form of be-bop made it the defining feature of jazz.

The total impression is of something combining Dixieland and swing, and generally concentrating on the happy, fast-paced stuff that was the mainstay of both genres. Offering dancers the basis for a good time was one hallmark of both genres; that feature comes through here. It is accentuated by the inclusion of such numbers as At the jazz band ball, Tiger rag and Fidgety feet. All three are great fast-paced numbers. Of them the first two have ironically passed into an immortality not shared by their authors, who belonged to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. It was the first band to claim to have recorded jazz, although it performed a sanitised version of the real thing for the delectation of whites.

Jazzebel

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