If you’re looking to put on a record, be it for that sunny day, or even a cold rainy night, there is a swing album for it.
There is a song for a heartbreak that you can’t stop coming back to, the same as there is one for a soul mate you’ve been waiting for your whole life.
There is a song about the city with all it’s beauty, and a city with it’s equal troubles; there are also tracks about dancing with someone you’ve just met, or someone you watch from afar in a haze of crimson lipstick and swirling cigarette smoke against a saxophone’s moan.
But in each and every song of this irreplaceable decade, there is a spirit. Whether it lies in sadness, or happiness, the feeling is so powerful, it’s practically magical.
The gratitude for this goes greatly to the singers and crooners of the double decade, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne amongst countless others, as well as writers such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
But the unsung appreciation should, and always will, go to the bandleaders. The heads of this incredible era of creation that gave a soundtrack to everything, and anything in between.
The top notch stellar stars that played with nothing less than the best, and always from the bottom of their swinging hearts. These orchestral cogs fueled the time, gave hope to the millions and made it as irrefutably timeless as it stands today.
Amongst these players, lies a drummer that joined one of the best the great and equally underrated Count Basie, Duffy Jackson.
Jackson, the son of equally acclaimed musician, Chubby Jackson, was not only been Basie’s longtime percussion extraordinaire, but also player for Duke Ellington as well as Dizzie Gillespie.
And it is here that we find ourselves, on a balmy night in Delray Beach with a sweat akin to a Brooklyn summer night, seeing Jackson celebrate his inception into the group on this very date in 1979, along with everyone else who’d like to join the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
The venue could be no less perfect, as you enter into the humble Arts Garage, which plays host to an art gallery, as well as concerts, plays, and poetry it is the place that every venue dreams of being, which is a hybrid.
It can morph and mesh itself into any genre, and feel effortlessly like the artist it plays hosts to.
Tonight, it becomes the smoky club of decadence everyone dreams of one day attending, the kind where everything and anything can happen, all the while simultaneously being welcoming to people of all reaches.
Underneath the fairy lights overhead and black clothed tables, Jackson and his players, pianist Jim Gasior and bassist James Astley arrive, completing the transportation to all those years past.
As Jackson took to the drum set, he stated “This is 2016 and I believe that the world is starving for this music, because they need to learn how to swing.” And what a truth that is.
Starting with “Lester Jumps In” and into “Topsy”, the concert quickly became an educational experience as the enigmatic and wise cracking bandleader told brief tales of his time with the band, as well as showing the chronology of the genre; in tracks such as “Shiny Stockings”, you hear hints of Brubeck, as much as you can Little Richard in “Easy Does It”.
Jackson also recounted on fellow Basie player Freddie Green once saying to him, “Give each beat it’s full measure of time.” the group do just that and so much more in their journey of homage to swing.
The night would not be as beautiful without Gasior & Astley starting the sound machine that could take you to bustling Chicago, 40’s era Brooklyn or an autumn walk through Central Park, with a whisk of Gasior’s keys, which have the simultaneous ability of being fast as light itself, or gentle as a ripple in the water.
Astley’s talent lies in creating the heartbeat of the band; where Jackson excels in the life of the sound, the bassist creates the gentle sway of a lovers hips, the wandering eyes of lust, or smoke swirling in the shadow of a stagelight.
This translation of sonic emotion continued into the group’s second set, with “Broadway”.
Throughout the set, both first and last, you are frequently reminded that the genius is in the composer but the heart and soul of it is in it’s players.
It’s a legacy which is vibrant in Jackson, and his desire to carry on the high bar of talent that his mentor set for him.
“Little Darling” (written by Neil Hefty, the same composer of the classic Batman theme) and Basie’s collaboration with Elle Fitzgerald “Lady Be Good” performed with an energy electricity could only dream of mirroring, both proudly showed the orchestration of emotion, with the former prompting a couple in the audience to slow dance, hands locked in total love.
And as the night reached it’s sad conclusion on Basie favorite “One O Clock Jump”, as well as the hopeful promise to return with a full orchestra, one thing is for sure.
Swing will live on. It lives on in the hearts of those that witnessed it, in the ears of those heard it from their vinyl accompaniments; the generations that will hear it in the multitudes audio planes that exist.
It continues to resonate in the cities it was born in, and in the hearts of those that love it.
Swing is not a genre, it’s a feeling. And it’s a party that will, Thankfully and hopefully, never stop.
You can count on the Count, just as the same you can count on swing.