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Various Artists: Swing Around the World

Putumayo’s latest global compilation suggests that swing music might not travel that well after all. Leastways many of the “world swing” songs that made the cut on this album don’t: The Zimbabwean hot jazz of the Cool Crooners of Bulawayo is polished to the point of being dull, the Italian saunter of Renzo Arbore’s interminable “Mamma Mi Piace il Ritmo” is more soporific than stirring and the technically accomplished Django-esque manouche of the French guitarist Romane is too tightly structured to ever really boogie.

The lack of moving international swing on the disc suggests an awkward question: Why bother making an album titled Swing Around the World in the first place, especially if most of the songs hail from the USA? As an indigenous American art, Americans should be well represented, and they do represent many of the album’s high points (“Pallin’ With Al,” lifted from the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ third album, and Clark Terry scatting with Oscar Peterson on a too-short excerpt from “Mumbles”), but when more than half the disc is performed by natives of the 50 states, you have to wonder when the project began to run off the tracks.

Originally Published