Riding the crest of renewed interest in swing (which Doc Severinsen can take significant credit for) has taken the Tonight Show Band successor into the studios for another swing album, this one honoring the blues. The set kicks off with a brief Stan Kenton-like "Intro a la Indigo" seguing into "C Jam Blues," and after that, the group never looks back. Integral to the success of the album is the drumming by Ed Shaughnessy; suggesting the skills of Gene Krupa, he sustains a steady, relentless beat to drive the band. He solos on "Topsy," recalling the passionate Krupa solo at Carnegie Hall on "Sing, Sing, Sing." Shaughnessy is also featured on "All Blues." He's not all that subtle, but can he swing! Severinsen also provides abundant solo time for other members of the aggregation, as well as allotting some time for himself. He is especially prominent on "West End Blues," an early favorite of Louis Armstrong. After an opening chorus from Severinsen, Bill Perkins comes in, assuming Harry Carney's role on baritone on "In a Sentimental Mood" and getting significant support from Ross Tompkins' piano. Ernie Watts' tenor dominates "C Jam Blues" while Doug Webb's is soulful on "All Blues." Severinsen takes a few licks on a fervent arrangement of Bob Haggard's classic standard "What's New." The last tune on the CD punctuates the entire session with finality. "The Supreme Sacrifice" is a gospel-like number complete with Bill Cunliffe's B-3 organ, and rumbling choruses from Mike Daigeau's trombone and Snooky Young's trumpet, accented by a few shots from Severinsen. Barbara Morrison joins the group as "girl singer"; her presence also strengthens the session's blues credentials. She plays Joe Williams on "Every Day I Have the Blues," and she's also heard on the slightly risqué "Don't Touch Me" and "The Hucklebuck," where she shares the stage with Conte Candoli's trumpet.
Probably in no other form of jazz are good arrangements as critical as in big band music, and on this album, they are outstanding, with seven contributed by the dependable Tommy Newsom and the rest split among Bill Holman, Artie Butler, and John Bambridge. Swingin' the Blues is a delightful excursion to the land of jazz with a very knowledgeable tour conductor.