Review: The Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers

The Swingle Singers
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 12th June 2012. Second night of two. Review by Frank Griffith)

The Swingle Singers made a welcome return earlier this week to Pizza Express Dean Street for two nights running after a two year break. They were last there in 2010 with collaborator Richard Niles.

Sporting a youthful lineup of four male and three female vocalists, their a cappella sounds reverberated winningly in the Soho jazz cavern. Fully kitted out with headsets and mics and dressed smartly but informally, their appeal is as much visual as aural. They don't remain in a clustered, formal layout - their moves are choreographed with ever-changing formations on each song, moving, grooving.

Their repertoire displayed an amazing range from Bach, DeFalla and Debussy to The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea and Turkish Folk Songs. In addition their remarkable ability to memorise nearly two hours of music (especially those devilish inner parts), spot-on pitching topped off with achieving an "intervocalactic" blend showed off a stupendous grasp of group discipline and musicality.

The Swingles were formed in 1962 in Paris by American singer/arranger Ward Swingle, and recorded with everyone from the Modern Jazz Quartet to Luciano Berio (Sinfonia, 1968) during their first decade. Their current crop provided all things from pure and scintillating recreations of madrigal singing from Medieval times to contemporary hip hop grooves replete with bass 'n' drum vocalisations from the lower voiced members of the ensemble.

This engagement heralded the debut of the new bass, Edward Randell, who clearly looked and sounded to be settling in nicely. Soprano, Julie Kench, was making a return stint (having left the group in 2009) and shone brightly on The Diva Aria, an operatic ditty from the Bruce Willis film The Fifth Element.

A riveting, sometimes comical and most musical of evenings was appreciated by a healthy houseful. Let's hope that the Swingles will return much sooner than two years hence.

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