Reviews

Who they are... What they're saying...  
Raul d'Gama Rose
All About Jazz
 
An album of show tunes and film songs is not necessarily a bad thing, and when the music is performed with finesse and a certain pizzazz, it can be downright enjoyable. This certainly is the case with Lady K and The Kings of Swing Live at the Blackhawk. The big band is based on the West Coast and is directed by its tenor saxophonist and flutist, Kaye Leedham. However, Leedham is gracious, maintaining that this is an ensemble effort, and indeed it is.

The band plays, on this debut album, sleek and svelte arrangements from the playbooks of arrangers such as Sammy Nestico, Quincy Jones and Nelson Riddle. Some of the arrangements have been adapted by arrangers working with the band. No matter; the performances are wonderful, mature and delightfully swinging. Although it would be unfair to single out any of the personnel, as most of the playing is evenly good, John DeBoer is exceptional on trumpet, especially on "Shiny Stockings" and "Love for Sale." The late Art Dougherty, the alto saxophonist who passed away before the release of the album, will also be fondly remembered for his solo on "Body and Soul." His great leaps and wild swinging across registers are beautiful and sometimes reminiscent of Johnny Hodges.

Vocalist Dale Head is featured on several tracks. Head is a fine tenor, who channels Frank Sinatra off and on throughout the performance, but also has a deeply emotional voice of his own. He swoops on lyrics like a great bird in flight, bringing dynamic situations to life. His phrasing is extraordinary and his intonation wonderful. Occasionally, however, Head may get a tad carried away and mimic a little Louis Armstrong, which seems out of place. However, the vocalist adds a powerful dimension to a fine group of musicians.

The fact that music like this has to be self-produced is deplorable. There are few repertory big bands performing today and a band that is able to secure a live date and put out a record deserves considerable credit. The question is where they would go next. With the musical skills on display here, perhaps there is a case for exploring material from the books of musicians who have truly created a path for swing—men such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie, to name just two. But then again, that may just be on the agenda...who knows?
 
Christopher Llewellyn Adams
Cashbox Magazine
 
The best of modern jazz is shown throughout the latest album from Lady K and the Kings Of Swing. Recording some of the all time greats with a modern sound, the band is a prime example of music at it's finest.

One of the better live jazz albums I've heard in some time, "Live At Blackhawk" is an instant hit, likely to see a quick rise up the charts. Lady K leads her group with a master's touch, translating some of music's most well loved songs into modern favorites.

The best example of this modern touch would be "My Favorite Things." Easily one of the best 100 songs of all time, Lady K takes an established classic and gives it a unique feel. I can imagine seeing her band perform live would be an awesome experience.
 
Rotcod Zzaj
Improvijazzation Nation
 
Get yer' dancin' shoes on people... Lady K & her krew will have you dancin' the night away without doubt on this live gig at The Blackhawk... Kaye will keep you movin' till dawn breaks early! The personnel list is far too long to put here, but you can check it out at her EPK page. This is actually the kind of music I grew up with, albeit watching it on TV... you know, old black & white musicals with huge bands that played into oblivion... there are 17 excellent tunes for you to groove to & get acquainted with this marvelous style of music. I doubt there will be a "revival" of this type of music in the near future, but if you've never heard swing before, Lady K's CD makes a perfect entry point. High energy and a clear love of playing distinguish this band from "all the others" and this live recording gives you a real feel for where that kind of energy comes from. I give this January 2010 release a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.93.  
D. Oscar Groomes
O's Place Jazz Magazine
Lady K is Kaye Leedham, saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and producer of this classic compilation. The arrangements have a contemporary flair but all have a classic big band swing owing to the excellence imparted by a strong band. The members include Mike Young (sax), Mark Rossi (p), Ron Wetzel (tb) and John DeBoer (t). Vocalist Dale Head sings six selections notably "I've Got You Under My Skin". We felt the energy in these live sessions recorded at the Blackhawk concert series on September 28, 2007 and February 8, 2008. But we truly enjoyed their rendition of "Every Day I Have The Blues" and the swinging brassy version of "Love For Sale". Well-done Lady K and the Kings of Swing.  
John M. Peters
The Borderland
Oh boy! From the first seconds after pressing the play button I was in seventh heaven with Lady K & The Kings Of Swing - Live At Blackheart. I love swing music and this live album just exudes fun and quality all the way through the seventeen tracks. Lady K is sax player Kay Leedham and her Kings of Swing is a handpicked band of musicians who all have the jazz and swing gene in their blood. And it is a big band, with seventeen musicians, including vocalist Dale Head, a Sinatra clone with a pleasing voice and personality. From the opening bars of All Right, OK, You Win, the album just exudes professional quality and a large dose of good vibes.

Tracks include My Favourite Things, My Foolish Heart, Come Fly With Me, Luck Be A Lady, Every Day I have The Blues, I Can't Stop Loving You, I've Got You Under My Skin, How High The Moon and many more. In terms of sound I guess you can take Count Basie as a touchstone, but the Kings Of Swing have their own sound - it's punchy and takes no prisoners. The selection of songs covered is a good one, most are familiar standards, but that's okay with me, all of them have had new life blown into them and they retain the glitter they've always had. As far as I can tell all the tracks are played using their original arrangements, but I could be wrong, what is more important is that they all sound original, no modernising for the youth audience needing a dance beat. This was, after, the original dance music.

All the soloists are great, and it takes a very self-effacing bandleader not to take a solo or three during the album, but is a shame that Ms Leedham stays in the background - she deserves to be heard upfront at least once. Well, I think this is one the best albums I have heard in ages - it presses all the buttons for me and it is one of the best albums of the year so far. If you like swing music or danceable jazz music then this highly recommended for you.
 
George Fendel
Jazz Society of Oregon
Big band swing is alive and well in the San Francisco area. If you need proof, check out Lady K (Kaye Leedham on tenor sax and flute) and her 17-piece band. If you’d expect such a group to feature Ellington, Gershwin, Porter and Rodgers and Hart, you’d be right on the money. Any big band devotee knows that such an organization needs a ‘boy singer,’ and Dale Head fills the bill. You’ll know virtually all seventeen tunes, so put this one in the player and get out on the dance floor!  
Chris Spector
Midwest Record
Lady K is a multi wind instrumentalist that knows how to swing. This is a solid big band date that takes a nice walk down memory lane without being ironic or sentimental, just swinging. With a very Sinatresque set card and a large, like minded crew, this isn't just for gramps and his pals. It's a sophisticated outing that anyone with a taste for big bands can enjoy. Mix up a Manhattan and let the good times roll.  
George Middleton
KLBC Long Beach, CA
On a scale of 1-5 wows, Lady K and the Kings of Swing get 4-1/2 wows. A wonderful big band album, it will receive a lot of airplay on my show.  
Tom Mallison
WTEB Greenville, NC
Eleven tasty big band arrangements plus six male vocals, great swinging solos.  
Len Levy
New Jersey
I just received your CD from CD Baby and I'm listening to it as I type this. It is a wonderful recording by your top notch swinging big band. This is a great addition to my big band collection. I wish you and your band the best. Looking forward to your next CD.