Keely Smith still swings like mad
Swing revival? Is it really a revival when the original practitioners are still laying it down better than anyone else out there?
Forty years after she and and her one-time husband and musical partner Louis Prima basically invented the modern Las Vegas nightclub show (a point Sinatra would gladly concede were he still with us), Smith is singing better than ever. Her voice sounds just as strong as it did when she co-starred with Robert Mitchum as the lounge-singing girlfriend in "Thunder Road." Her timing remains spot-on, she still knows how to lead a blowing big band through its paces, and her sense of humor is undiminished.
And so we have a veteran star of the big band era leading us into the next century. Okay, the new album is a bit light on new songs, but Smith's versions of favorites like Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing," "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" swing so hard, with such abandonment and spirit that all these new young swing bands would be hard-pressed to keep up.
Swing revival? Look, with all due respect for the incredible boost he gave the music, forget Brian Setzer and check out Keely's rocking version of "Jump Jive an' Wail." Her ex wrote it, Setzer rediscovered it but it's Smith who owns it.
Besides, even if most of the songs here will be familiar, that familiarity may end with the title. Smith takes "Kansas City" and and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me" and turns them inside out, with completely fresh arrangements.
And that's what makes this album such a joy the whole session has a buoyant freshness around it, a sense that after all these years Keely Smith still gets a kick out of the music.
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