Benny Brydern is classically trained on violin and piano. He is also a composer and film scorer whose musical career has brought him together with Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, Etta James and Sinead O'Conner. Fortunately, none of this has interfered with his becoming a hot, very hot, jazz fiddler. John Reynolds, a strong rhythm guitarist, started on banjo at 11 and switched to guitar after exposure to recordings by Eddie Lang and Django Reinhardt. The two men are associated with many West Coast vintage ensembles.
Talk about eclectic! Their style, described as "inspired swing from the 1930s," pays homage to their predecessors - Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Eddie Lang, and Django Reinhardt. However, License To Swing includes "oldies" (pre-1920), standards, classical music, originals and songs from the 1960s.
Standards range from a romantic "Embraceable You" with a tasty solo by Reynolds to an exuberant romp through "Crazy Rhythm." Oldies feature the novelty tune "Raggin' the Scale," recorded by Lang and Venuti in 1933, an easy-swinging "Ja-da" and "Tiger Rag." I rate "Tiger" as "hottest of the hot " with Franz Lizst's "Dreams of Love" a very close second. Another classic, "Borodin's Swing" is the duo's take on what eventually became "Stranger in Paradise."
Arthur Hamilton's "Cry Me a River," a one-shot hit for both Hamilton and Julie London, is played with the beauty it deserves. Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" and three Lennon- McCartney songs represent the sixties. "Michelle" seems meant for the violin. I would have preferred more ballads - perhaps "Yesterday" or "Eleanor Rigby" - as they appear to offer more opportunities for improvisation than tunes like "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Hard Day's Night." Brydern contributes two originals. His "Winter Dreams, " played by the Hot Club of California, is a bonus in more ways than one while "Djangrappellogy, " as you might suspect, is the essence of gypsy jazz. On Reynolds' feature, "Falling in Space," the guitarist displays a whistling talent that reminded me of Bing.
Benny Brydern and John Reynolds know their way around their instruments and their enthusiasm is palpable. They love this music. You will too.