Back to What The Critics Are Saying

Verona-Cedar Grove Times
Thursday September 24th, 1998
Arts & Entertainment
By Nancy Benecki

Fads come and go.  Some fads are fashion trends, with capri pants of the 50s and bell bottoms of the 60s and 70s regaining popularity every couple of years.  Retro trends are also popular in music, with sounds from the past becoming rediscovered with a new artist who delves into the past to merge the past with the present into a unique sound.

One of the latest retro trends to combine the fashion and music fads of yesteryear is the newfound interest in the swing scene.  The new movement is sending today's youngsters to raid their parent's and grandparent's record collection and closets.

This isn't just your grandparent's swing music.  The styles combine the cool of the swing set with the cool of the 90s set.  Today's new swing groups combine the elements of rock, rock-abilly, pop, ska and even punk music into a brand new swing sound that reaches people of all ages.

For a proper night out on today's swing scene, first you need the proper venue.  Go no farther than the Cedar Grove Inn where Gloria Berman of CGI noted that there is "definitely an increase in interest and attendance at these kind of events."  The music has to be live, like the James L. Dean Big Band playing the hits from Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.  Anywhere that doesn't have the music and atmosphere is, as the Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra used to say, "Dullsville."

Next, you have to cut a dashing figure.  Andrew Shepard of Belleville, who manages and teaches dance at two studios in Montclair and Fairfield, showed up for the evening in the proper swing attire for a man -- a candy apple red zoot suit which he purchased on 34th Street in Manhattan for $75.  The ladies can wear vintage dress skirts that flare out when they dance, or a more updated classy outfit for night dancing.  Whatever is chosen to wear must be comfortable because with all the dancing going on, there isn't going to be a lot of sitting around.

Finally, the right dance steps separate the hipsters from the squares.  The Cedar Grove Inn last weekend was filled with students and teachers from local dance studios, including the continental dance club in Bloomfield.

Today's swing scene spans generations.  Clifton resident Jenn Lauricella, 15, attended the Cedar Grove Inn swing night her boyfriend, Scott Leureano, 20, of West Milford and her grandmother. Lauricella and here boyfriend were introduced to swing music when they saw the swing bands Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Hepcat on the Warped Tour this past summer.  They now take swing classes at Continental.

Laureano started his own swing band, a combination of members from two different local ska bands.  He sighted the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin Daddies as musical influences.  "We're all young," Leureano said, "We're all under 21.  You have young kids who are into punk, and we're getting them into swing music."

The seasoned musicians in the James L. Dean Big Band echoed the sentiments of the young musician.  "This is a great phenomenon.  It's nice to see a younger generation appreciate this music."  said Calvin Hill, the band's bass player.  He explained that only during the last 40 years did jazz become "music of the concert hall."  It's good to see people dancing again," he said.

James L. Dean, the Band's leader, started his big band in March of 1995 at Tierney's in Montclair, which he dubbed "The Big Band Capital of Northern New Jersey."  His band has backed Jerry Vale and Barbara Streisand sound alike Julie Budd.

When asked about swing music's revival, Dean said, "It's so old it's new.  People are becoming aware of good music again."  And why is it that swing music is even reaching out to the younger generations?  "They've seen the light," Dean said.

Back to What The Critics Are Saying