Past Perfect: Swing and Big Bands

The UK specialist label has brought out two cracking CDs.

Past Perfect is a specialist record label operating out of Bucknell in Oxfordshire that has been supporting the jazz and swing scene for many years. They do exactly what their name says - take the past and make it as perfect as possible. Classic tracks from the twenties through the fifties are selected from source and cleaned up to give the maximum clarity combined with a still-authentic sound. 

Two of their most recent releases are Perfect Swing (PPCD 78138) and Perfect Big Bands (PPCD 78143). Both CDs have an excellent selection of tracks and are deserving of places in your collection. 

Perfect Swing

Perfect Swing has to be one of the best swing starter sets ever. All the major bands of the era are represented here, all with swinging tunes. You can take your pick from Benny Carter, Jimmie Lunceford, Teddy Wilson, John Kirby and Red Norvo to begin with. And if it is the giants you're after, try Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Artie Shaw. 

This is definitely the CD to get if your collection lacks the tracks that made Swing swing. The Jitterbug Stroll is danced to At The Woodchopper's Ball, and here's the exact version you need as played by Woody Herman himself. Lil Armstrong weighs in with a delightful tune called Lindy Hop, and Cab Calloway plays The Jumpin' Jive.

What tune do you need to dance the Big Apple? Flying Home, of course, and Lionel Hampton and his orchestra will have you tearing up the front room carpet in no time. There's no time to rest as Glenn Miller follows with Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam) straight afterwards. Do you know Frankie's Chorus, the routine danced at his 85th birthday party? Dig out those notes, because here comes Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy with Wednesday Night Hop.

Skyliner is a popular tune in the repertoire of current bands 9.20 Deluxe and Sticky Wicket. Check out Charlie Barnet's original here. And what else could you end with, apart from Benny Goodman again, playing us out with Wrappin' It Up (also known as The Lindy Glide).

The booklets that accompanying the CDs have pen pictures of the artists by Peter Vacher, to give you some background information. The whole package is well produced and assembled, with some delightful Art Deco-style artwork on the cover.

Perfect Big Bands has several of the same artists as Perfect Swing, but with different tunes. Once again you will find Woody Herman (Four Brothers), Benny Goodman (Let's Dance), Count Basie (Do You Wanna Jump, Children?) and Duke Ellington (Harlem Airshaft). But there's a warm welcome for Savoy Ballroom favourite Chick Webb (Go Harlem), Stan Kenton (The Spider and The Fly), Les Brown (Bizet Has His Day) and Harry James (Trumpet Blues and Cantabile).

Perfect Big Bands

So many of these tunes are danceable that it could almost be called Perfect Swing 2. The main difference is the appearance of several vocalists, including Jimmy Rushing (with Count Basie), Helen O;Connell and Bob Eberly (Jimmy Dorsey), June Christy (Stan Kenton) and Peggy Lee, singing Why Don't You Do Right? with The Benny Goodman Orchestra. 

Top honours for longest band name and tune nearly go to Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, with vocal by The Sentimentalists on their rendition of Sunny Side Of The Street. But even Tom is edged out by Major Glenn Miller and The American Band of the AEF featuring Sergeant Johnny Desmond and The Crew Chiefs with I've Got A Heart Filled With Love (For You Dear). By the time you've finished reading that, the song is half over.

These are classy compilations obviously put together with a lot of love and understanding by Past Perfect. If you are new to the scene, or if you are still looking for some of the classic Lindy Hop dance tracks, these CDs are the ideal place to start. See the whole catalogue at Past Perfect

If you cannot see the Menu Frames, click here for the Home Page.