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June 2001

Dave Berger and The Sultans of Swing
Doin' the Do!
Such Sweet Thunder

The swing revival may have peaked a couple of years ago in terms of being a fashionable retro movement, nonetheless, the bands keep playing and the music keeps coming. Why, casual listeners may wonder? Simply put, genuine devotion outlives popular fads. The music's strongest proponents-David Berger among them-took to swing music decades before Brian Setzer became chic and will no doubt continue decades after that Stray Cat has been forgotten.

The original director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Berger has transcribed and studied numerous arrangements by the great masters, Duke Ellington in particular. That experience places him in good stead on Doin' the Do. For example, Berger deftly orchestrates "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me," basing his arrangement on Ellington's piano accompaniment from the Great Paris Concert of 1963. Such details convey a deep knowledge of the music and, if they seem rather academic, they certainly don't sound that way. In fact, the Sultans-among them New York regulars like trumpeter Steven Bernstein, saxophonist Jerry Dodgion and bassist Dennis Irwin-bring a vitality and freewheeling spirit to the music often lacking elsewhere.

Aria Hendricks' mature alto, now possessing a vastly richer tone than earlier outings with her father, Jon Hendricks, makes a perfect fit with the band. She brings a certain ease and earthiness to "Makin' Whoopie" along with "Miss Thing" and "Busy Woman Blues," two charts originally arranged for Lavay Smith.

All in all, the Sultans' playfully good-natured romping will inspire those who are fleet of foot. Armchair dancers will be similarly, if not literally, moved.

Originally published in June 2001
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