Brownbeat All-Stars

The Brownbeat All-Stars

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In 2001, Philippine swing band Brownbeat All-Stars released their debut album, The Brownbeat All-Stars, on local independent Viva Records. The group's female lead singer is called Skarlet, but her real name is Myra Ruaro, former vocalist for 1990s local groundbreaking ska band Put3ska. Brownbeat All-Stars' eight members consist of vocalist Skarlet and a bassist, drummer, guitarist (with some vocals), percussionist (with some vocals), tenor saxophonist, alto saxophonist, and trumpeter. The group's sound is rooted mostly in 1930s-styled swing, re-popularized in the 1990s by such acts as Squirrel Nut Zippers and Brian Setzer. In addition, "Hunger," "Lampungan" (Loving), and "Azucar" are ska-based. "Azucar" contains beautiful, Latin-based piano, horn lines, and percussion that add punch to the song's strong melody, while the arrangement to "Powerful Seduction" contains dazzling Santana-influenced percussion. Most of the album, however, is rooted in swing and the 1990s swing revival. The opening, swing-styled "The Brownbeat Theme" immediately sets the pace. The horns play swinging, jump-styled riffs over a hypnotic walking bass, as vocalist Skarlet enters and sings an upbeat, contagious melody. Without a pause, the band starts swinging on "Lampungan," another fine effort. Other songs, however, including "Happy Condolence," "Digital Karma," "Waray-Waray," and "Powerful Seduction," among others, aren't so strong, as the melodies meander and lack staying power. The arrangements throughout the album are always exciting and cutting-edge, though. Skarlet shines on the tender, Billie Holiday-like torch song "Longing." A nice album, but it could be stronger.

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