Gary Williams: At The Movies


I haven’t presented a lot of fresh music in my blog, but since we are already heading into the second half of the year it’s time to look at this year’s harvest.

There is a great new album to be released officially on September 14 from one of the finest Swing singers and crooners in the UK, from Gary Williams.  Very well known for his role of Frank Sinatra in ‘The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas’ from London’s West End, he has put together an album of outstanding excellence: some of the finest arrangers in the UK and some of the best Jazz musicians in the UK have been called up to breathe new life into fifteen songs from Hollywood classics like The Aristocats, Saturday Night Fever, Toy Story 2, The Jungle Book and The Lady and The Tramp.

The CD began with a surprise: The first song called ‘Spooky’, which I know from the late 70′s from the Atlanta Rhythm Section was used in the 1998 movie ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and became a Hollywood classic. The version I remembered was a great piece of US-southern rock music but Phil Steel arranged it very cool with nice horn arrangements featuring Graeme Blevins on flute and Gary’s voice floating above the band. It’s a very elegant opener for the CD.

The next song was an unknown for me. ‘Almost in Love’ is a beautiful Bossa Nova written by Luiz Bonfá and recorded originally by Elvis Presley in 1968. This is my favorite song on the CD, pretty cool and relaxed sung with a piano and saxophone solo and millions of times better than the Elvis version.

The CD continues with a classic pop song. ‘Both Sides Now’ from Joni Mitchell, which is usually presented very openly and softly. The arrangement from Phil Steel and the way Gary sings it however, avoids that it becomes greasy. Gary has produced a nice video for that tune which I do not want to keep from you:

The fourth song ‘Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat’ from the movie ‘The Aristocats’ has been pre-released to the public as a free sample track and Gary returns here to his jazzy side with an old-fashioned swinging band and the great Nigel Price playing a slick guitar solo.

The ballad ‘Puppet On A String’ comes next and this song gives Gary the opportunity to show his clean and precise voice and his perfect pronunciation. You may say now, here is a ballad and you talk about pronunciation but for me this is what came to mind hearing this song. A ballad is often used to present the voice with some great dynamics, but this ballad stays soft,  gentle and … precise.

Now we need a little bit more power and it comes with ‘He’s A Tramp’ from ‘The Lady and The Tramp’.  A very danceable Cha-Cha-Cha version with an excellent wind-section, that sounds like a mix of a big-band and a salsa band. Very nice.

Back to pop music with the next song –  ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ from ‘Saturday Night Fever’. I think everybody knows and remembers it. The latin groove with a string arrangement plus saxophone fills and solo give the song a different but pleasant touch.

The CD continues with a Gary as Baloo, the bear from ‘The Jungle Book’ in ‘Bare Necessities’. The comedian in this song however is the band especially Chris Traves who wrote the trombone arrangement and plays the trombone.

The 9th song on the CD is another Elvis Presley song. ‘I Need Somebody To Lean On’ is from the 1964 movie ‘Viva Las Vegas’. Another very soft song with an organ background and guitar and vibraphone playing the kicks and fill-ins.

The next tune ‘Baby Mine’ from the 1941 Disney movie ‘Dumbo’ is again a latin groove. Similar in style and sound like ‘Almost in Love’ –  a Fender Rhodes piano, an acoustic guitar and a saxophone – but another perfect scenery for Gary. For me this kind of music is really ideal for his soft and clear voice.

‘When She Loved Me’ from ‘Toy Story 2′ shows Gary and the excellent piano playing of Clive Dunstall in a beautiful duet ballade, comparable to the original version in the movie.

The CD continues with a Burt Bacharach song. ‘Close To You’ from ‘Mirror Mask’ but the arrangement from Paul Campbell does not follow the version from the movie. This song is another of my personal favorites, because there is this killer sound of piano and vibraphone playing unisono, which makes me to get goosebumps.
If you would like to listen to the version from ‘MirrorMask’ (I think this is a quite interesting interpretation) here is the link for you

The Irving Berlin tune  ‘Isn’t This A Lovely Day’ from the 1935 movie ‘Top Hat’, originally sung by Fred Astaire comes next and Gary’s version is a classic swing tune with a rhythm section (guitar, bass and drums) plus again a brillant Clive Dunstall on piano. I found a quite similar arrangement from Diana Krall in my collection, but Gary’s version is much more straight and less pompous than Diana Krall’s arrangement. Very tasty.

The last two songs on the CD are reserved for songs sung originally by Elvis Presley:
‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ from the movie ‘Kid Galahad’ is a piano-dominated ballad;
‘Pocketful of Rainbows’ from ‘G.I.Blues’ is arranged as pop-song, with a straight piano beat plus an excellent horn section, a really happy song to end this CD.

Well, that was a long list of tunes to present. 15 songs in total with a total playtime of 49 minutes makes this CD quite entertaining. The selection is a good mix of famous and lesser know songs, but each song received the full attention from the arranger, from Gary and from all musicians, so the the result is a CD Gary can be extremely proud of and which is comparable to productions from big names like Diana Krall, Michael Bublé or Nora Jones.

I also have to say ‘Thank You’ to Gary for taking me to this journey of songs from movies from the last 50 years. I listened to the original versions, discovered interesting material and I guess there are still many treasures to be dug up.

The official launch party takes place on September 14 at London’s Crazy Coqs. Another chance to see Gary live in London is on October 15 at Ronnie Scott’s. I will be there and I’m looking forward to hearing all these songs live.

You can pre-order the CD on Gary’s website. Here is the link for you:

As soon as the CD is released and available on iTunes, I will add a playlist.

Swing in the Wind – Festival


I spent the last three nights in Estavayer-le-Lac to attend the 10th edition of the Swing-in the-Wind Jazz festival. Estavayer is in the same region where I live (State of Fribourg)  so I know where to go and where to find a parking spot. Estavayer is little medieval town and it has the perfect scenery to spend a summer night outside and listen to Jazz music.


I have attended this festival last year, so it was on my focus again and the line-up convinced me to buy a festival pass for all three nights for the main stage (most of the concerts are free, but there are some headliners for whom you have to pay).

The line-up was:

  • Thursday, July 20: Thierry Lang (he is the “local” piano hero, since he is also from the region)
  • Friday, July 21: Bireli Lagrene
  • Saturday, July 22: Champian Fulton, Rhoda Scott Lady Quartet

The first night started with Thierry Lang and his band with Darry Hall on bass and Mario Gonzi on drums plus Olivier Ker Ourio on harmonica. Their choice of tunes was a set of standards played very elegantly and confidently. Thierry Lang has huge fan base in the area and you don’t see him live very often. He was well prepared and it was great fun. At the end of their show they invited Diane Tell for two chansons (Diane Tell played the second show on that evening) and it was a nice surprise and a perfect encore for this concert.

The headliner for the second night was Bireli Lagrene and his Acoustic Quartet with Franck Wolf on saxophone, Hono Winterstein  on rhythm guitar and William Brunard on bass.


Bireli and his musicians showed their excellence and especially Bireli Lagrene is a guitar player who has no limits and who invents new techniques and sounds on his instruments. It was absolutely incredible what he is able to do. I saw him earlier this year at the Jazz festival in Bern, so I knew what to expect, but again I found some of his playing freshly and surprisingly.

The third night had two unknowns for me: Champian Fulton with her trio and Rhoda Scott with her Lady Quartet.

Champian Fulton came all the way from New York for this single concert to Switzerland and she was in a high spirits, she enjoyed playing very much and she and her band with Giorgos Antoniou ­on bass and Steve Brown on drums produced the perfect swing sound, sometimes very “vintage” but perfectly played. Champian is a great singer with a real bluesy voice and her piano playing has it’s best moments when she plays chord melodies. She presented some of the tunes of her latest album, which she did for posi-tone records (I follow this label for some years now and try to get each year all new releases). The songs on this latest CD called “Speechless” are instrumental-only, so if you search for an album where she sings, be careful. In total, a great show from her, impressive also the band enjoying to play real fast up-tempo tunes.

The last concert of the festival was the Rhoda Scott Lady Quartet with Rhoda Scott on the Hammond organ, Sophie Alour on tenor sax, Julie Saury on drums and a young excellent clarinet player whose name I unfortunately forgot. Again a band that sometimes sounded and played very “vintage”,  like the great combos did play in the 50′s or 60′s. Those bands with a Hammond organ play all very bluesy, old-fashioned funky and the Rhoda Scott Lady Quartet was no exception here. There approach is traditional but their playing wasn’t, especially Sophie Alour plays a contemporary style. Also striking was Julie Saury on drums, very driving and pushy. The band played some tunes of her latest CD “We Free Queens” which one could buy after the concert. I got one copy and it has very nice and well played material on it.

Finally a great thank you to the committee  that organized this festival so perfectly. There were some thunderstorms during the concerts but they caused no interruption to the concerts, unfortunately it was not always possible to sit outside and enjoy a balmy summer evening.

I will keep this festival on my list and watch out again next year what happens. If the line-up is interesting I will come again. I like the atmosphere in this little medieval town very much and I also like the whole concept of this festival with free and paid concerts, so aficionados come and pay for the headliners and those who want to sit outside, eat and drink and want to get entertained enjoy the free concerts all over Estavayer-le-Lac.