The Swingle Singers: Christiane Legrand, Jeannette Baucomont, Claudine Meunier, Anne Germain, Claude Germain, Ward Swingle, Jean Claude Briodin, Jean Cussac.
Additional personnel includes: Pierre Michelot (acoustic bass); Gus Wallez, Andre Arpino (drums).
Recorded in 1963. Originally released on Philips (840.519).
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
Adapter: Ward Swingle.
Personnel: Jeanette Beaucomont, Christiane Legrand (soprano); Claude Germain, Ward Swingle (tenor); Jean Cussac (bass voice); Andr‚ Arpino (drums).
Recording information: 04/1963.
Arranger: Ward Swingle.
Ward Swingle's achievement as the mastermind behind a series of attractively arranged and smoothly executed group vocal jazz interpretations of preludes, canons, fugues, adagios, airs, gavottes, and bourees by Johann Sebastian Bach constituted one of the great international artistic successes of the 1960s. These pleasant and unique recordings first appeared in the U.S. in 1963 and 1964 on the Philips LPs Bach's Greatest Hits and Going Baroque. In 1968 Verve records compiled both volumes into one package under the title used for the original French releases: Jazz Sebastian Bach consists of 23 beautifully rendered wordless jazz versions of some of the composer's loveliest creations. Since Bach was a master improviser and jazz is partially based in the most creative aspects of the European classical tradition, it makes perfect sense for these pieces to have been reconfigured as exercises in collective scat singing. During the '60s the sounds of the Swingle Singers appeared within all kinds of unexpected contexts, even showing up where the Swingles probably never dreamt it would materialize. Perhaps the most unusual application of this comforting music was its incorporation into The Hour of the Furnaces, a relentlessly challenging underground Argentine socialist film by Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino that appeared in 1968 and has been closely studied by students of filmic theory ever since. During Part Nine (titled "La Dependencia"), a gentle adagio (performed by a female member of the Swingle Singers) was employed during a sequence combining rapid-fire images of U.S. pop culture, advertising, poverty and Western Capitalism with graphic slaughterhouse footage that sometimes zoomed in on the faces of dying cattle. The jarring propagandistic success of this powerful juxtaposition was largely due to the mind-bending contrast between startling visuals and the measured beatific calm of the music. In its original context, and especially when enjoyed in this splendid compilation, Jazz Sebastian Bach stands as the crowning achievement of this ensemble and would certainly be a sensible addition to anyone's library of all-purpose mood music. ~ arwulf arwulf