THE SWINGLE SINGERS - JAZZ SEBASTIAN BACH
23 Bach tracks each arranged by Ward Swingle.
Rec 1963 and 1968 AAD PHILIPS 824 703-2
The sound of 'Swingled' Bach is as much a byword and artefact of the 1960s
as The Beatles, Mods and Rockers, goatee beards and Beatnik Jazz. These
arrangements, heavy on descant, are light on the palate, and the Swingles'
approach is flighty, serene, jazzy, surface skimming and soft-focus romantic.
The simple accompaniment used is Double Bass and percussion. This is typical
of a jazz combo. The Swingle style bred shoals of imitators and UK readers
may well recall the Mike Sammes Singers and 'Sing Something Simple' of Sunday
Evening Light Programme fame.
The Swingles were: Jean Cussac, Claudine Meunier, Anne Germain, Christiane
Legrand, Ward Swingle, Claude Germain, Jean-Claude Briodin, Jeannette Baucomont.
This group disbanded in 1973 and Ward went to England forming Swingle II
from classically trained British singers and recording some extremely impressive
albums with RCA. I especially recall their LP of Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia,
a superbly azure Blue Bird and some deliciously sung settings of French chansons
including Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc.
Some of the tracks on the present CD no longer ring true, seeming gauche
and unsophisticated. If the Swingles avoid the wince-making forward lean
and rhythmic finger-clicking you could easily imagine the effect being added.
Have we suffered too much parody and replication, I wonder? Many however
still strike home in an undemanding way like the Fugue in C minor from vol.
1 of the Well Tempered Clavier. In fact 10 of the 23 tracks are from the
Well Tempered Clavier. Try sampling tracks 6, 7 and 9 for the best of the
crop. If you like one track then you will probably like all the rest.
Decent notes. In-style design. Sweet technical sound. Perfection at this
Bach enthusiasts will want this as another manifestation of Bach updated
and will view it in the same light as the albums of Bach on the Moog Synthesiser.
I would recommend this album to retro fans and nostalgiacs.