Echoes Of Swing: Winter Days at Schloss Elmau

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Echoes of Swing are in top form for this festive album, the quartet of Bernd Lhotzky (piano), Colin T Dawson (trumpet), Chris Hopkins (alto saxophone) and Oliver Mewes (drums) joined for this by US jazz singer Rebecca Kilgore (“one of the best interpreters of the Great American Songbook” says Wikipedia).

The premise of the album is that Echoes Of Swing and their audience (ie you) are stuck in the snow, with only a woman whose voice makes Marilyn Monroe sound like Tom Waits, a world-class jazz band and the staff at a luxury hotel — Schloss Elmau is a national monument and hosted the 2015 G7 summit — for company.

To call it all a bit self-satisfied is an understatement: we constantly have to avoid thinking of smug millionaires in woolly jumpers lazing in front of a log fire talking about golf, their new Tesla and stock options.

That aside it’s a nice album, warmly suggestive of family gatherings, open fires and tinsel. Unfortunately for Ms Kilgore, Echoes Of Swing are themselves as hot as a smouldering yule log, and the best sections are the instrumentals.

Hoagy Carmichael / Harold Adamson’s Winter Moon opens and the first section, before the vocals come in, is perhaps the best two and half minutes of the album, and rescues it from any feeling of smugness. Anyone that good at playing a piano so sensitively has to be raving a heroin addict living life on the edge, and that’s before the sax comes in. Crack and whisky and a life of misery away from that sax, for sure.

Kilgore’s vocals join in half way through and she’s got a lovely soft voice, warm and caressing of the ears, (and with a nice sense of swing).

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening (Bernd Lhotzky and the aptly named Robert Frost is next), a more regular song, the vocals coming in soon after the intro.

David Frishberg’s Snowbound is perhaps the signature piece for the album, “Ain’t It Nice To Be Snowbound?” sings Kilgore; it’s perhaps a little too much like the music from a John Candy Christmas film, but there are some nice instrumental sections. Other songs include Winter Wonderland and Burt Bacharach’s The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle, played as a bossa nova.

Out now on ACT 9105-2; the more we play it, the more we like it, and it’ll be getting a spin or two over Christmas.

The cover photo shows the lonely hut that is Schloss Elmau.


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