Producing the Swingles

I’m is delighted to announce that I’ve been chosen to produce the next album from the Swingle Singers ! How did this come to pass? From two kids in Orillia, Ontario to the studios of London England, this is a story 17 years in the making. [insert heartwarming movie-trailer music here]

For those of you unfamiliar with the Swingle Singers, they are considered to be among the greatest pioneers of vocal jazz. In the group’s 44-year history they have won Grammys, played the world’s greatest concert halls, and influenced countless students and fans of vocal jazz.

So how on earth did I get involved? It’s quite a story… actually, it’s not so much interesting as it is long.

Back in 1990, in Orillia, Ontario, me and my friend Kevin Fox start singing in our first (semi)professional vocal group “Jazzamatazz”. It really lives up to its name: a group of students and teachers playing the local resorts, led by our drama teacher, the one and only Ted Duff. Among the rep was music by the Swingle Singers, including a couple of Bach organ fugues sung in scat-singing style and this 26-page crazy medley of traditional American folk music. Kevin and I totally dig this strange vocal jazz thing, and keep at it through university… him at Laurier, and me at York with a group called “Wibijazz’n'”. Gotta love the names, eh? At the same time, we’re both recording music with our new-fangled 4-track cassette recorders (don’t ask to hear the tapes). Singing and recording… lotsa fun.

Fast-forward to 2002. Kevin is now director of Wibijazz’n’ (after me and my wife Suba). He’s in his last year of directing and wants to make a whiz-bang album to wrap up his 5 years as director. So, he asks me about it. The conversation goes like this:

K: So, I hear you bought a new computer. Can you record music with it?
D: Yeah, I guess.
K: So, you want to record our album?
D: Uh, I dunno how to record an alb-
K: So?
D: … and I don’t have any equip-
K: We’ll buy it for you.
D: …and I don’t have any recording softwa-
K: Find it. Learn it. See you in a few weeks.
D: [scratches head, confused]

Well, the album gets done, people like it, and I find myself with a little project studio. Later that year, Kevin’s brings me into this a cappella quartet, made up of former Wibi members, called “Cadence”. We tour around the world a bit and make records. Singing and recording… lotsa fun.

Fast forward to 2007. After a bunch of great years with Cadence, Kevin and I decide to leave. I see a job posting online and call to tell Kevin about it. The conversation goes like this:

D: So, there’s a vocal band looking for a baritone. Interested?
K: Sure. Who is it?
D: Oh, just the Swingle Singers.
K: Get out! But I couldn’t audition.
D: Why not?
K: Idunno.
D: Do it. Do it, do it, do it, do it. Go to London. I’ll buy your ticket if I have to.
K: [to himself] he’ll keep calling, and calling… [to Dylan] Fine, I’ll go. I’ll go. I’ll go.
D: Great. Lemme know how it works out.
[leaves, relieved at not having to buy plane ticket]

Kevin flies to London, gets the gig and moves out in the summer of 2007. He soon learns that there are plans afoot to record a new album. The Swingle Singers may be a 44-year-old-group, but they are a new generation of Singers and they want to  make more contemporary records. So, he calls me to talk about it. The conversation goes like this:

K: So, we’re looking to record a new alb-
D: Can I do it?
K: … we’re currently researching our options for producers, and  –
D: Can I do it?
K: … well, I mentioned that you and I had done some –
D: Can I do it?
[waits a few weeks]
K: Sure, I guess.

And there you have it. We start tracking in January. K, it’s been quite a ride. Let’s keep going.

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