Hot Tracks

The sepia-tinted album cover, with singer Makinna Ridgway in full flapper get-up, is fair warning of what you will get in this retro swing album.

Powered by drummer Willie McNeil's crisp drumming and buoyed by bandleader/saxophonist Bill Ungerman's perky swing stylings, The New Recessionaires is irrepressible fun.

The sound is hardcore 1920s small ensemble swing, no surprise as Ungerman and guitarist James Achor belonged to Royal Crown Revue - one of the first retro swing bands that powered the genre's revival in the late 1990s. But the lyrics for the entertaining original tunes offer a good dose of millennium irony.

The opening track OMG, arranged in classic 1920s-style with a swingy four-four beat complete with bouncy banjo and bluegrass violin, could pass for a period tune but for the clever lyrics which use SMS lingo and acronyms to hilarious effect: "OMG it's a BFD/A BFF who is OCD now has ADD/FYI I know it's TMI." The authentic period feel is boosted by McNeil's radio announcer pronouncements and Ridgway's Betty Boop-style vocals.

  • JAZZ


    The New Recessionaires

    Discos Estudio Uno

    4/5 stars

The other standout original tune is The Pie Song, ostensibly about a girl singing about her cooking ability, which offers wink-wink burlesque double entendres, leavened by comic percussion effects, including a parping car horn.

The programme also offers vocal and instrumental versions of classics such as Happy Feet and Puttin' On The Ritz.

While the album runs a bit short - under 30 minutes - every minute is action- packed.

Ong Sor Fern

The piano music of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) has been celebrated for its Janus-like qualities. Juxtaposing the diabolical with the sacred in music paralleled his personal life of sinner-turned-penitent, a self-styled "pop star" virtuoso in his youth who spent his later years as an Abbe and sage.



    Cyprien Katsaris, Piano

    Apex 2564 67410-2

    4.5/5 stars

This recording by French-Cypriot pianist Cyprien Katsaris eloquently illustrates these diametrically opposed views, opening with the sublime Benediction De Dieu Dans La Solitude (Blessing Of God In Solitude), where the spiritually serene and rapturous come together as never before.

Then follows the four Mephisto Waltzes, of which the First is the most often performed. Here the "evil" interval of the tritone (once referred to as "diabolus in musicus" and banned by the Vatican) is flaunted with wild abandon in a series of unbridled and frenzied dances.

The rarely heard Mephisto Polka and near-atonal Bagatelle Sans Tonalite are inserted as sinister miniatures, but the palate is cleansed with the Variations On Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a grand treatise on the passacaglia form which concludes with the reassuring strains of a Bach chorale.

Katsaris' pianistic journey from Hades to Paradise is absorbing and exhausting, and one to be savoured.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe