theatre review: THe swingaroos at Florida studio theatre
Aug 28, 2015
by: Marty Fugate Staff Writer, Sarasota Observer (www.yourobserver.com)
The Swingaroos are swinging and singing at Florida Studio Theatre. Based on the name, one might think the six-piece is a touring Australian swing band. No, mate. They’re also not an ad-hoc band assembled for a revue. They’re an actual, factual band on tour from New York City. And they can definitely play.
Kimberly Hawkey is the high-octane lead singer; light-fingered Assaf Gleizner plays the piano and arranged the tunes. Saxophonist/clarinetist Daniel Glaude, trombone player Nat Ranson, bassist Oliver Watkinson and drummer Uri Zelig add to the musical stew and keep it cooking. But it’s not all swing in the pot.
They’re a swinging band, but not a swing band. The Swingaroos cover American pop standards from 1930 to 1945—or recreate the sound with original tunes penned by Gleizner.
The mix includes a blistering bluegrass attack on the traditional “Mama Don’t Allow,” a sizzling Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” (the Brahms tune that doesn’t put you to sleep), a Better Midler-esque “America the Beautiful,” Stephen Foster’s weepy “Old Folks at Home” and I thought I caught a riff from George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Meyer and Wolfe’s “Crazy Rhythm” and Arlen and Mercer’s “My Shining Hour” kick into true swing syncopation — a worthy take on the classics. But Gleizner and Hawkey’s original tunes all feel like old standards. “Someday Sunday Subway Boogie” has swing’s finger-popping vibe; “Grocery List” is a Duke Ellington-style litany of food-based double entendre; “Steam Train” has a shuffling, stride piano beat. Two stylistic chameleons, these kids. The songwriting duo could steal Doc Brown’s DeLorean, go back to 1940 and get on the airwaves.
There’s a loose narrative structure behind the music: The Swingaroos are getting their act together, getting ready to hit the big time in New York City. But the story stays in the background. Story aside, the performers’ raw talent and high-watt personality make the show work.
The band dynamic draws you in with all its back-and-forth reactions of patter, patois, significant looks and gags. Their garb helps to sell you, too. All the guys wear snappy fedoras, except for the Stetson-sporting trombonist. Hawkey’s poured into a spangled red dress and turns from sultry to sassy on a dime. She’s a true lead singer with real presence and substance behind the style. She has a great voice and does a wicked scat number that sounds like she’s playing the trumpet. But the level of musicianship is intimidating all around. Each Swingaroo gets a chance to show off and shine. Machine-gun drum solos, klezmer-style clarinet wailing, lightspeed piano medleys (including a four-hands boogie) and an intricate bass riff. They work nicely together and apart, these kids.
The Swingaroos give you nothing but entertainment — and more than the empty calories of nostalgia. These young musicians aren’t serving up dead styles; they’re working within swing, stride, jump blues, or New Orleans jazz, as the case may be. And those styles are alive and well when they sing and play.
Theater review: 'swingaroos' put a lively twist on old sounds
Aug 26, 2015
by: Jay Handelman, Herald-Tribune
If you close your eyes and just listen to The Swingaroos, you might actually think you’ve traveled back in time to a small little nightclub in the 1930s to hear a lively swing band.
The Swingaroos at Florida Studio Theatre features, from left, Nat Ranson, Daniel Glaude, co-founder Kimberly Hawkey, Oliver Watkinson, Uri Zelig and co-founder and arranger Assaf Gleizner. Photo provided by FST
Even with your eyes open and watching the six-member group on the stage of Florida Studio Theatre’s period-looking Court Cabaret, you might not wonder if you’ve done some time traveling.
The band, led by singer Kimberly Hawkey and pianist/arranger Assaf Gleizner, recreates the sounds of the past with a hip, contemporary flair and drive. They perform a mix of classic songs by Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, the Gershwins and even Brahms, with original songs by Gleizner and Hawkey that have a similar style. They often sound as if they could have been written in the 1930s or 1940s when small swing bands emerged from larger traveling big bands led by some of the biggest stars of the era.
Their show “The Swingaroos: Swing-era territory band” closes FST’s refreshing summer cabaret series featuring visiting artists trying out new programs and productions.
Assaf Gleizner, left, and Kimberly Hawkey created The Swingaroos, a modern swing band with a 1930s style. The six-member group performs classic songs and originals all arranged by Gleizner. Photo provided by FST
In an earlier interview, Hawkey said the FST show (running through Sept. 20) is something new for the group. It’s primarily a concert with a backstory of how the band got formed and the musicians’ dreams — cue Mercer’s song “Dream” — to make it to New York.
Fortunately, Hawkey and the group don’t make much of that story, which amounts to a line or two of supposed connective tissue between playfully arranged songs. The lines that are intended to prompt certain songs don’t make a lot of sense when you hear the lyrics of the next melody.
But none of it matter because the focus is on the music, and this is a stellar group of musicians, led by Hawkey’s strong, sometimes quirky, sometimes flirty voice. The band also features reed player Daniel Glaude, trombonist Nat Ranson, bass player Oliver Watkinson and drummer Uri Zelig.
The original songs aren’t always up to the quality of the classics in the show (maybe because they’re not yet as familiar), but they fit right in, and showcase Gleizner’s impressive ability at arranging. Just listen to the way the band plays Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” or the constantly shifting tempos and beats of “Crazy Rhythm” and you hear practiced improvisation and a clever ear at work.
Singer Kimberly Hawkey created the modern swing band The Swingaroos with pianist Assaf Gleizner, left. The group is performing at Florida Studio Theatre. Photo provided by FST
The band is having fun and triggering a lot of toe-tapping, and the mostly older crowd at Tuesday night’s show was singing along to the songs they knew.
Just a word of warning. Avoid, if you can, a seat close to Zelig’s drum set. Even though it’s muffled a bit by some protective sound barriers, it still can be overwhelming, making some of the rest of the music sound muffled and noisy rather than melodic and fun. After a few songs, I guess, my ears got used to it.
Florida Studio theatre announces 2015 cabaret season
April 20, 2015
The Swingaroos will perform a 5-week run of their cabaret-style show at the John c. court cabaret theatre in sarasota as part of FST's summer cabaret series
New york music Daily - Album Review
The Swingaroos Offer a Good Reason Not to Stay Home on the 17th
March 11, 2015
The good news about St. Patrick’s Day this year is that it’s on a Tuesday. Does that mean the amateurs won’t be celebrating it early this weekend, turning every bar from Hell’s Kitchen to Hell’s Gate into Hell itself? Probably not. But there will probably be fewer of them out this coming Tuesday the 17th, if you’re stir-crazy enough to go out that night. And if you end up at the big room at the Rockwood at around 10, you’ll get to see a really fun, original retro swing band, the Swingaroos. Does that mean the Rockwood folks expect lots of drunken dancing? Your guess is as good as anybody’s. More likely, it means the band is taking a gamble that they’ll be playing their irrepressibly cheery update on 30s and 40s sounds to a captive audience.
Their album All Aboard is streaming at Bandcamp. Pianist Assaf Gleizner’s stride stomp fuels the opening track, Steam Train, singer Kimberly Hawkey ably voicing a train whistle and then serving as emcee for jaunty solos by Dan Glaude on clarinet, Nat Ranson on trombone and then a scampering one from the piano.
Hawkey shows off her brassy and smoky sides on the high-spirited stroll A Walk in the Park, bassist Chris Conte adding a lively, tiptoeing solo. To the Beat! looks back to Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman. Then the band brings it down with Far Across the World, Hawkey’s expressive (and subtly droll) vocals anchored by Gleizner’s resonant chords and a balmy Glaude alto sax solo over drummer Mike Gordon’s misty brushwork
Grocery List is a funny Louis Jordan-style jump blues: “A ham, a clam, a leg of lamb, it’s just baloney,” Hawkey intones, having all kinds of fun with food innuendos – and a pretty fair impersonation of a kazoo solo. The band has just as much fun making a slowly strolling noir theme out of Brahms’ famous Hungarian Dance, with a tip of the hat to Duke Ellington. Nagasaki is the lone Roaring 20s cover here, done with a rapidfire, coy hokum blues flair.
The band follows that with the album’s best track, Shadow Man, with its Brecht-Weill style angst and Hawkey’s moody, world-weary, distantly Billie Holiday-inflected vocals. Gordon’s tapdancing drums take centerstage on the brisk I Can Take It. The album ends with a silly cover that’s infinitely better than the original, which will probably draw some chuckles from people in the crowd who were in grade school back in the 90s.
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2015
HEY Mister Jesse Podcast Feature
#110 Hey Mister Jesse for February 2015
The Swingaroos track, "Grocery List", was featured on the February edition of the Hey Mister Jesse podcast, Hosted by DJ Jesse Miner, that serves up "tasty talk about swingin' jazz and blues .... that wil serve up a platter of swingin' music that matters to dancers". We're thrilled to have been included in their 110th episode, which is featured as part of Yehoodi.com, an online meeting-place for Swing Dancers around the globe.
Episode #110 of Hey Mister Jesse is now available to download and enjoy. February's show features new music from Michal "Peanut" Karmi, Chelsea Reed & The Fair Weather Five, The Smoking Time Jazz Club, Marina & the Kats and The Swingaroos and tons of international audience feedback. (73 minutes)
STREAM THE PODCAST HERE: http://www.yehoodi.com/show/heymisterjesse?episode=110