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Kevin Connor Swingtet

Swingtet is a CD spanning a number of decades and cultures, an upbeat, happy, backwoods-dancey affair rooted in the nimble guitar of lead man Kevin Connor, secondarily in just as perambulating a spirit, bassist Jeff Norwood, whose bouncy elastic sound is perhaps even more irrepressible than Connor's, oft reminiscent of some ultra-cool background to a Laurel & Hardy short. Clarinet—thank God for the modern slow but steady licorice stick resurgence!—is provided by Craig Flory, who larks all over the CD, keeping Connor even more buoyant than he already is. I was particularly delighted to note a cha cha cha song, a mode that's one of the few world musics invented by a single person (Enrique Jorrin, Cubano violinist and songwriter in a charanga ensemble in the 50s) and not all that revived nowadays.

Connor's fretwork is lively but much in line with the classic swing guitarists, nimble but not too overcomplicated, fascinating and followable (when one gets too frantic, one tips into hot jazz territory!), and Flory incorporates an unusual flutter technique I've only rarely heard on clarinet, a side dish feathery and quavering. Though both take plenty of solos, they also toss in a good deal of co-harmonic lead lines, following each other step for step, note for note. When singer Carlos Cascante leaps in on three cuts, trad folk strains take clear emphasis, Connor fading back into interesting staccato chord work and harpsichordy lead melodies…both because he's playing a no longer much utilized classic instrument, the coro, a banjo affair. In fact, the axe appears to be quite rare, as I can locate almost no images of it in Google save for various brooches. One photo I caught, if it is indeed a coro, shows a striking arrangement of two sets of doubled and two sets of tripled strings.

Drummer Joseph Mascorella gets in some righteous chops during Melancholy April and elsewhere (and, hey, if that's a 'melancholy' tune, then I wish all my own wisftfulness was exactly like it). If you dig old-timey, Parisian, Balkan, and the more trad latinate musics, this is going to ring your chimes, partner……even though every single track, though they all sound hoary with estimable age, was written by Connor. At first I thought, "Oh bullshit! This is too damn authentic not to have at least been ripped off a la Jimmy Page's blues horkings!", but, no, Kevin indeed wrote everything (with some lyrics by Cascante). It's evident he's absorbed a huge amount of influences. June Bossa, for instance, starts out way Jobim-ish but immediately flows into a number of transitions within a copacetic framework before tripping back to Bonfa only to then get modernesque, and so on, even to a Gabor Szabo passage. That song, more than anything else, was the one that convinced me Connor was quite rightly the author of it all. Impressive bastard! And the more you listen to Swingtet, the more it suffuses itself with light.
Track List:

Everything Happens in May
Crispy September
Cha Cha Cha Pa'la Lluvia
Seattle Charleston
Two Finger Waltz
Changüí Para Ti
Melancholy April
June Bossa
High Five
No Más Fútbol
Kitty Kat

All songs written by Kevin Connor.