Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires

Not Just Visiting

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Not Just Visiting is an unabashed celebration of the music called swing. Taking advantage of the renewed interest in the genre, Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires, a jazzy group of nine of Boston's top musicians -- five of whom are professors at Berklee College of Music and all of whom clearly revel in this music -- romp through a play list of some of the best of the big-band arrangements. Mostly from the 1930s and 1940s, these are arrangements which have continued to get plenty of play in the new millennium. The one exception is the kick-off tune composed for the session, "Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphire Blues," which previews what's to come. And what follows is some fine toe-tapping, finger-snapping, let's-get-up-and-dance swing, with Jim Porcella vocals thrown in along the way for good measure.

The group makes no attempt to replicate the arrangements that gave the tunes their fame. But there is enough of the original to remind everyone from whence the tune came. On "Caldonia," some of the licks from the Woody Herman Band are evident. Porcella's vocal is close enough to Herman's to pose the question, "Caldonia, what makes your big head so hard?," the recognized memorable moment in swing history. "Well, Git It" relives the Sy Oliver arrangement for the Tommy Dorsey Band, with Gary Johnson's drums opening up, followed by a call from Jeff Stout's Ziggy Elman-esque trumpet, and then a response from the entire group. With Jim Porcella doing the Tex Beneke vocal, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" is played at a blistering pace of 232 beats per minute (bpm). There's not much downtempo material on this disc. On one of the few slower numbers, Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk," Porcella's vocal is reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald's with ace guitar player Jon Wheatley assuming the Joe Pass role. The other piece for "slow music" dancers is a medium-tempo arrangement of "You Stepped out of a Dream" sounding like it would if Stan Kenton were backing Joe Williams. Porcella is an entertaining vocalist with outstanding timing and rhythm along with a sense of humor. On "Just a Gigolo," for instance, he inserts a couple of choruses of "I Ain't Got Nobody," predicting the likely fate of a gigolo.

In addition to the mandatory composer credits, there's a bpm measure for each tune. The bpm, the rpm of musical rhythm, runs from a sizzling 236 for "Air Mail Special" to a coasting 69 for "Girl Talk." Boston's Swinging Sapphires are a working band, and the denizens of bean town are fortunate to have them. This album is good music, a lot of fun, and recommended.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:04
2 3:32
3 3:12
4 2:53
5 3:39
6 4:48
7 4:42
8 3:19
9 4:36
10 4:05
11 4:51
12 4:40
13 3:27
14 3:02
15 4:50
16 3:19
blue highlight denotes track pick