Readers old enough to remember the early ’80s may be having Taco flashbacks.
I’m not talking about Mexican food. I mean the Dutch pop star Taco, who had a huge hit in 1983 with ‘Putting on the Ritz’, a synth-pop version of Irving Berlin’s 1929 standard.
Swing jazz is all the rage again in electronic pop and dance music. The Australian group Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup recently went to #1 on the UK pop charts with ‘We No Speak Americano’, a jitterbugging blend of house beats and hot jazz that reworks Renato Carosone’s 1956 hit, ‘Tu vuo fa l’americano’. (Riding on the song’s popularity, the band has just released several remix packages—like this,this, and this—and even a Spanish-language version.)
Yolanda Be Cool and D-Cup are hardly alone in their vim for vintage: there’s been an explosion of swing-inspired tunes recently, so much so that Rob Da Bank even profiled “electro swing” as part of Rob’s Guide to Barely Believable New Genres of Music, a recurring feature on his BBC Radio 1 show.
Read on for 10 tracks, old and new, that fuse house beats with hot jazz. Remember: it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.
They no speak Americano—but they are, however, fluent in flapper.
Back in February, Gramophonedzie turned Peggy Lee’s 1942 jazz song ‘Why Don’t You Right?’ into a peppy house track, with Bingo Players and Trevor Loveys’ remixes really emphasizing the “electro” in “electro swing”.
Chicago’s DJ Sneak seems to be becoming the go-to guy for jacking jazz: he remixed Gramophonedzie’s ‘Why Don’t You’, and he also contributes a high-stepping rework for Isaac Fresco’s ‘Foxtrot’, released this week. The title is self-explanatory: from the plinking pianos to the cartoonish female vocals, it’s a zippy tribute to ragtime.
A white-label hit before getting an official digital release last fall, Der Dritte Raum’s ‘Swing Bop’ pays tribute to the libertine spirit of ‘20s Berlin, featuring muted horns, insane piano glissandi, and vivacious clarinet soloing. (Der Dritte Raum gets extra points for bringing in actual guest musicians to record many of the track’s instrumental parts, rather than simply sampling whole chunks from old records.)
Der Dritte Raum’s ‘Swing Bop’ also turns up on ‘White Mink’, a collection of so-called electro swing jams, along with cuts from Analogik, Jesse Rose, Waldeck, and even, bizarrely, Einstürzende Neubauten’s FM Einheit. Lyre Le Temps’ ‘Hold the Night’ is a particularly energetic ragtime banger.
Viennese downtempo dude Parov Stelar has been doing his jazz-house thing for ages now; his 2004 song ‘Kiss Kiss’ was his breakout hit, and he’s kept it up over the years with cuts like ‘Charleston Butterfly’ and ‘Libella Swing’. His new track ‘The Phantom (1930)’ mixes up ‘30s jazz with electro house and ‘70s disco, to rather curious effect.
On a hip-hop tip, the Jazz & Milk label gathered together a handful of swing- and jazz-influenced tracks on their ‘Jazz & Milk Breaks Vol.1’ and ‘Vol.2’. (Free the Robots have clearly changed direction since that 2006 release: their 2010 album ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’, for the Alpha Pup label, is dark, stumbling beat music in the vein of Flying Lotus, Zomby, and Joker.)
The Pulver Records label features a number of tracks that flirt with swing and jazz; one of the oddest is Sam Irl’s ‘Keep Talkin’, which combines elements of big band jazz, psyche rock, Afrobeat, and breaks into a stuttering funk number.
In the early ‘00s, Chicago artists like Greenskeepers and Mike Dixon had a field day cutting up jazz with jacking house; the bluesy ‘Never Enough’ is a great example of what, for a time, was called “swing house”. For fans of scat singing, don’t miss ‘House of Mouths’, on the same release (or, for that matter, Iz & Diz’ great ‘Mouth’, also on Classic, and its two sets of remixes on Greenskeepers).
Finally, no survey of swing-influenced electronic music would be complete without Mr. Scruff’s 1999 hit ‘Get a Move On!’, which sampled elements from Moondog and the LA jazzman Shifty Henry, and rose to mainstream visibility via the numerous commercials that used the song.