Various Artists

Swing Alive! At the Hollywood Palladium

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This album is from the soundtrack of a 1996 TV special, broadcast live from the Hollywood Palladium, for the benefit of PBS featuring stars past and present paying homage to that unique American music genre, swing. In business since their Duke University Blue Days of more than 60 years ago, making it the longest lasting musical organization under the same leader, Les Brown and His Band of Renown provided the musical glue for the session. The set features a wide variety of performers running the gamut -- from veterans of the swing era to more recent converts and disciples to those who don't fare all that well in the genre. There's Tex Beneke still riding the "Chattanooga Choo Choo" after more than 50 years since he and The Modernaires first recorded the original with Glenn Miler. Although the voice quivers, Beneke has not lost his swing credentials. Hal Linden, TV's Barney Miller, shows he is no slouch with the clarinet as he recreates three Benny Goodman hits. One of the newer swing groups, Royal Crown Review, does two numbers of its own before joining John Pizzarelli and Les Brown on a rousing "Sing, Sing, Sing." Then there are newer groups which look to performers from the past, like The Step Sisters doing an Andrew Sisters routine on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," but adding a few wrinkles of their own along the way. Count Basie Orchestra vocalist Dennis Rowland entertains with an animated "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues," adding a bit of jazz yodeling a la Leon Thomas. Not all of the tracks maintain the high level of quality which characterize the session. Suzanne Somers doesn't quite make it on "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Despite the backing of Les Brown's group, Sheena Easton is out of her league trying to cope with "Sentimental Journey." Brian Setzer and his rock tinged swing will not likely appeal to swing purists. The ultimate trouper and song and dance man Bob Hope shows up to do a tune with Brown befitting their long association on Hope's radio and TV shows. Fittingly, the session ends with one of the most popular tunes from the Les Brown book, "Leap Frog." While somewhat uneven in spots, this album is an entertaining tribute to swing from the past and present.

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