Keely Swings Basie-style With Strings

Keely Smith

Concord Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Keely Smith is known as the "Queen Of Swing," and indeed she has had a long and storied career in swing and jazz vocalist, including discovery by and a marriage to Louis Prima. Influenced by such sources as Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole, Smith's work is smooth, sweet jazz; music to dim the lights and sip cocktails by. On my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Keely Swings Basie-Style With Strings, she sweetens up her swing sound with a 22-piece string section and an 18-piece brass band, and it works really well.

This is the third in Smith's 'tribute' series of recordings. On each of them, she has done a series of songs in the style of a given performer; not necessarily songs that they themselves recorded, but songs as they might have recorded them. This is a bit tough to get your brain around in concept, but in practice it works just fine; it occasionally results in combinations that seem initially odd (Count Basie does the old Motown/James Taylor hit "How Sweet It Is," for example) but which work in execution. More importantly, Smith is having fun. Because Smith self-finances her own recordings, she keeps the right to choose her songs and set up the recordings as she wants -- so this is all what she wanted to do, and it shows. The joy and the love in these songs is palpable.

Production and engineering on the recording is flawless. The brass sound is fat and round, contrasting well with the crisp bite of the string section. Smith's vocals are a wonder in and of themselves; while it's impolite to discuss a lady's age, suffice it to say that there's a young woman's fire and power in her fluid, languid delivery. The backing musicians are all excellent.

Songs of particular note include the sweet and wondrous "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe"; Smith's take on the classic "I Can't Stop Loving You"; a unique cover of Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You"; and a kick-out-the-stops romp through "Take The A-Train." I also confess to being a sucker for the spoken-word, announcer-style intro and outro on the record.

Keely Swings Basie-Style With Strings is a brilliant piece of work. Fans of jazz and swing shouldn't miss it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Concord Records, and is used for informational purposes only.