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May 2001

Engelbert Wrobel Swing Society featuring Dan Barrett
Sophisticated Swing

Every so often an album comes along that infuriates jazz purists because it fails to answer the nagging question: Is the genre obliged to move inexorably forward in style?

Reedman Wrobel's Swing Society is a German quintet (the youngest is American but spent most of his 29 years in Germany) and they wisely assimilate American trombonist/cornetist Dan Barrett on more than half of its 15 tracks.

About those tracks. They look back in loving tribute to many of the early combos that helped jazz evolve. To cite a few: the John Kirby Sextet, Artie Shaw's Gramercy 5, various Goodman combos, and small groups that featured Louis Armstrong, Ben Webster, Charlie Shavers, Mel Powell, Sidney Bechet, even Django-but not necessarily of the Hot Club vintage.

In other words, and with other notes, Wrobel and his likeminded swingers have looked back and eloquently recaptured many moods, many seminal periods in a genre they obviously love. Chalk it up to idol worship, but because of the level of musicianship, don't call it idle worship. "Derivative" is not a dirty word.

Originally published in May 2001
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