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Johnny Varro Swing Seven: Swingin’ on West 57th Street

Swing is one of the most used, misused and misunderstood words in our language. If somehow they could get together in that great union hall in the sky, musicians from Buddy Bolden to Bix Beiderbecke to Bunny Berigan and from King Oliver to Count Basie to Duke Ellington would all agree that syncopation is the most vital ingredient in the DNA of jazz. But you don’t have to have names beginning with “B” or be part of royalty to realize that most jazz fans (and that would include musicians) are on shakier ground when it comes to defining the various styles of jazz.

Thanks to Arbors Records, a particular idiom is being preserved. The label has an ever-growing catalog of the genre known as swing, which applies to an era that flourished between roughly (very roughly) 1930 and 1950, from the end of Dixieland to the evolving modernity of bebop. There are no clean lines of separation because musicians’ creativity results in a lot of overlapping.

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