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The Backsters: Live And Jumpin’

One of the great elements of the so-called “swing trend” is that very few artists are actually talented enough to jump on the bandwagon-great swing is precise and dynamic, and eludes most pretenders. Another element is the freedom of the form-witnessed by four wonderful and dramatically different recent releases by The Backsters, Indigo Swing, Royal Crown Revue and 8 1/2 Souvenirs. Each takes the seeds of swing, and cultivates a unique corner of the jazz garden.

The veteran Southern California quartet known as The Backsters lurks in the shadowy back alleys of steamy swinging blues, and Live and Jumpin’ treats listeners to a full-muscled workout. Lead by the wailing sax of Joel C. Peskin and the arch, wounded-tenor vocals of John “Marx” Markowski, the Backsters play dramatic, old-fashioned blues by the classic writers: Otis Rush, Nat Adderley, Jimmy Vaughn and more. This is the stuff of breezy walking bass lines and crazy blues-guy lyrics (“I love my baby like a rootin’ pig loves his corn,” sings Markowski on “Hold it Right There”), boffo, wailing improvisation (check out Peskin on “Three Times a Fool”) and dramatic, rock-solid breaks (“Caledonia”). These are the chord progressions that launched 10,000 blues songs before- but the Backsters keep them fresh, surprising and irresistible. This is hard swinging blues presented as it was meant to be heard-live.

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