Sunday, November 23, 2003

Vegas Swings

Let's rewind to the halcyon days of the town they call "Lost Wages", back before they strapped a sack of dynamite to The Sands. This is Bugsy's town but its Frankie's world and Dino, Sammy and co. have the whole sweet swingin' sphere locked down tight into a Nevada state of mind. Fast forward forty plus years and a new breed of sultans of swing are blowin' cooler than an Ipanema breeze and hotter than an Acapulco afternoon. Welcome to the new lounge and swing generation. Vegas Swings once again.

This smokin' NYC combo mix street swing, jazz and hip-hop. Dr.Dre meets Count Basie Orchestra, or theWu Tang jammin' with Duke Ellington. G-clef Da Mad Komposa and his crew know Cab Calloway and the zoot suited swing pioneers were the prototype for for today's rap superstars. The Hounds' sound tougher than a Bronx street hood but tender like midnight in Manhattan. Harlem Apollo meets the Rainbow Room. Romantic Thugz is the East Coast anthem for the neo-swing generation, the cool New York hipster flipside to Californian cats Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's hedonistic West Coast sound. Daddy Make It Feel Good is another truly outstanding track from The Hounds., true pioneers of swing/hip-hop/jazz crossover. Long may they continue to innovate and inspire. For more info go to

“Close your eyes and imagine the scene : the time is the golden 1950’s era of Las Vegas, Nevada. You’re new in town, just driving around, checking out what’s hot From the Desert Inn, the Sahara, the Sands, and the other casino lounges you hear the sounds of Louis Prima & Keely Smith, Dean Martin, The Treniers, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. If only you could have been there and heard that great music, felt that excitement, tasted that electric atmosphere”Revisit the halcyon days of the Las Vegas lounges with the UK’s very own Ray Gelato and the Giants. This combo swings like Sam Butera and the Witnesses, Louis Prima’s legendary backing group, in their prime. For more info go to

This swingin’ Seattle septet swings most righteously. Lounge lizards par excellence, HB Radke and the Jet City Swingers are for the cocktail culture cognoscenti. Included here is a hipster take on Bacharach’s I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and a showstopping version of “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane” which has become a set-closing classic at Vegas. As a special bonus for this cd hepcat HB and Seattle’s most swinging combo recorded a special version of Viva Las Vegas for our exclusive delectation and delight. What a top guy and what a top band! For more info go to

THE GOOD FELLAS The Good Fellas are a superb swinging combo from Italy. Led by charismatic bandleader Lucky Luciano these guys first came to attention in 1997 backing Ray Gelato on Gangsters of Swing. On the cover of the Bologna-based swingers’ debut cd Salute! they look like the cast from a Martin Scorsese movie : real Italian mafiosa style!, A nice mix of indigineous Italian numbers and swing classics. Their main influences are Louis Prima and Sam Butera and the Witnesses. The Good Fellas certainly emulate the sounds of these dynamite Vegas swing outfits but their Italian language vocals give their sound an interesting new dimension. For more info go to

NYC duo DTS are musical maestro Dave Cauter and beguiling chanteuse Kelly Flint, mainstays of the Big Apple’s cult underground neo-lounge scene. Hipsters, bohemians and lounge lizards can catch Dave’s True Story playing regularly at clubs like The Living Room, The Cooler, and The Stinger Club. DTS create a beguiling jazz noir sound redolent of smoky nightcubs and sultry sirens. DTS’s lyrics are literate, wordy and ironic, evoking the heyday of bohemia but with a hip postmodern twist. Kelly sounds like a latter day Julie London; conspiratorially cool as any fatally flawed femme fatale should be she narrates the tale of the crazy chick in the “Sequined Mermaid Dress.” For more info go to

This hot UK swing combo go loco down South America way with a sensational version of Earl Grant's classic House of Bamboo. The vocal duties are handled by a fabulous UK singer called Sophie Garner who features on this track as her alter ego flamboyant Brazilian chanteuse "Coco Calypso." Many great artists have covered this tune including the incomparable Andy Williams, but Sophie and her 8-piece backing band bring some new, decidely spicy, ingredients to the table and succeed in supplying an already exotic cocktail with a sassy new kick. For more info go to

Swinging stockbrokers from Stoke. Charismatic corporate raiders “united by a love of swing, jump-blues, ska, dirty skanky beats and cold hard profit.” Fat Cats on The Prowl is taken from the bands debut cd Keeping Up With the Dow Joneses and is a superb slice of neo-swing with a street-wise UK sensibility. Like how Big Bad Voodoo Daddy might sound if they came from Sheffield instead of Los Angeles and featured in one of Guy Ritchie’s gritty gangster flicks rather than Swingers. These guys put the “urban” in “urbane” and the “street” in “street swing.” For more info go to

JS-6 take a full measure of lounge lizard cool, add a liberal dash of hipster swing, lashings of catchy melodic pop, witty lyrics, a great sense of humor and a twist of 60’s kitsch then shake vigorously until the irresistible retro party sound of Jet Set Six explodes like Vesuvius over Pompeii. JS-6 are not just a fun band -these guys can play. Punchy horns and irresistible rhythms are their trademark. And of course there’s the leader of the pack chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist John Ceperano, a smooth crooner with a gift for wonderfully witty wordplay.JS-6 featured regularly at the World Trade Centre Windows on the World restaurant, where John also promoted kitsch retro nights like Spy-Fi Fridays. For more info go to

Seks Bomba are an eccentric, eclectic combo from Boston. Their music is an exotic cocktail of surf, lounge, exotica, 60’s psychedelia/ Hammond-led instrumentals and Lalo Schifrin/Quincy Jones/Hugo Montenegro style soundtracks. Add a twist of bossa nova and garnish the whole intoxicating combo with Bacharach’s pop sensibility and you have a very pleasurable mix of cocktail cool, esoteric exotica and cheezy eazy. Take The Ventures, Dick Dale, Booker T and the MG’s, Henry Mancini, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Burt Bacharach, stir well and pour liberally over an imaginary James Bond flick set in a 60’s go-go club and you might just get something which sounds a little like Seks Bomba. For more info go to

Cocktail Angst are a combo creating a commotion on the NYC neo-lounge circuit. Beguiling chanteuse and songwriter Toby Williams’ style is reminiscent of Peggy Lee at her most world-weary and intoxicating. Take a dash of Is That All There Is era Lee, add a splash of psychedelia, a twist of mordant wit and garnish with a liberal sprinkling of urbane sophistication. “Good Luck Charm”is as evocative an homage to the lure of Vegas as any, ever. Last Tango in Vegas bemoans the conversion of Nevada’s magnificently seedy oasis into a Disneyland-style theme park (“What have they done to Bugsy’s town?”) Cocktail Angst : wonderfully evocative, sinister, literate lounge music for aficionados. For more info go to

SHAG Cover art for Vegas Swings is an original work by hip Californian lounge artist Josh Agle ("Shag"). Shag's work is influenced by avant-garde animation of the 50's and early 60's as well as commercial art of the same period and is sought after by collectors worldwide, including the obligatory Movie Stars, Rock Stars and Hollywood Producers eager to hang "Shag Art" on their walls. and he exhibits regularly in galleries in New York, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo and his native California. When not painting Shag spends his time "converting his home/studio into a supervillian's hideout of space-age gadgets and martinis at noon". For more info go to

Frankie Sumatra ~ Nov 2003

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Gangs of New York

OK, I've just seen this sucker ~ it usually takes the best part of a month for these Hollywood blockbusters to make the leap from L.A. to a magic lantern house in the vicinity of Casa del ionesco: and I thought we were living in the digital age - same old, same old. Parochial Edinboro, Scotchland, I'm guessing, isn't high on Miramax's hitlist for opening weekend market penetration.

A few months back my assessment of this movie was:

"The DiCaprio factor chills me to the bone...

That and the fact that Marty's been locked away in an editing room since the late 20th century cutting this baby down to bite-sized blockbuster dimensions. Miramax head honcho Harv. Weinstein is rumoured to have "taken an active interest" in the final cut. This is not a good thing.

My best guess: after last year's African-American triple whammy of Halle, Denzil and Sidney expect the Academy to finally get around to patronising the woefully marginalized Italian-American community by awarding Marty a long overdue "Best Director" gong.

You can bet Gangs of New York will be no Raging Bull."

Now I've seen it my opinion is the same but with additions.

Di Caprio: bad move. A sop to the youth demographic. What was I saying about Art being compromised by Commerce? Scorsese is the ultimate cinematic artist but Diaz and Di Caprio were mistakes: bland, photogenic ciphers.

Worst scene? The scar-kissing fiasco. I'm ready to believe the callow putz Di Caprio is fresh outta the birth canal but a battle-scarred warrior?

Funniest moment? Bill da Butcher headbutting Leo half a dozen times and scarring him "beyond repair":

I want you to live in shame!

Bill, buddy, have a word with Leo's agent, willya? The biggest concession you're gonna get is:

My client is prepared to hang out in the shadows, vaguely angst-ridden, with Cameron Diaz for 5 minutes tops, baby. After that it's business as usual.

Photogenic scars barely visible to the human eye but enough to suggest character-forming catharsis. I thought we'd just gone into flashback the next time we saw Leo onscreen after the trauma. Nice work, makeup dept!

Having said that Daniel Day-Lewis sold out his Irish heritage magnificently as Bill da Butcher. A faultless impersonation of Bobby De Niro: method devouring method ~ quintessential post-modern movie magic.

True star of the film: Edinburgh's own Gazza McCormack as Bill's mute henchman. Gazza was offered a speaking part but refused to utter the line Die Hibernian scum. A true Celtic warrior.