Press Reviews
of the Jive Kings

ECMA 2001 Jazz Group of the Year

"When opera and jazz converge"
Bob Mersereau, The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, January 6, 2001

"Enthusiasm and exuberance bubble right out of the jewel case on P.E.I.'s wunderkind jazz band The Jive Kings."
Stephen Pedersen , The Halifax Herald, November 12, 2000

"Jive Kings' new album might be better than its debut ECMA winner"
Doug Gallant, The Guardian, August 27, 2000

Something to smile about - "Judging by the smiles on the faces of its organizers, the Indian River Festival concert series has been going well. ...'We've had good things happening since we began the summer,' says Crane (festival president.) 'Audiences are up by 20 per cent to 25 per cent, and we had a full house for Measha Brüggergosman and the Jive Kings.' "
Mike England, Special to The Guardian, August, 2000

"The ultimate house party band, in fact (Johnny Favourite notwithstanding) - all the songs inhabit that glorified realm of low-class gangster esprit"
Dan Walsh, Reverb, February, 2000

"Jive Kings groove to top in jazz/artist group set." (at ECMA 2000)
Doug Gallant, The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2000

"...,Spoon for a Knife, is worth moving some living room furniture and polishing your dancing shoes for."
Jane Ledwell, The Island Edition, Feb. 2000

"Spoon For A Knife is an example of some of the best performance, playing, and writing I have heard in a long time."
Andrew Younger, The Atlantic GIG, Dec. 1999

"An impressive first outing, Spoon for a Knife deserves a shot at the East Coast Music Awards for best jazz recording."
Doug Gallant, The Guardian, Oct. 22, 1999

When opera and jazz converge

It was a chance meeting, and an even more surprising collaboration.

Last February, at the East Coast Music Awards in Sydney, N.S., Fredericton opera singer Measha Brueggergosman wowed the crowd, clobbering them with classical instead of celtic. Also in the house were P.E.I.’s new swing-jazz heroes The Jive Kings, about to be crowned best jazz band of the year.

One smart producer asked them about performing together, and that lead to a recording session this past summer. The results are just out, a new disc called The Jive Kings with Measha Brueggergosman. Measha sings on five of the 14 tracks, and what a powerhouse she is as a jazz singer. Wisely, they decided to stick to classics, given the limited rehearsal and recording time. The tracks are well known, even for the 23-year old: Summertime, A-Tisket, A-Tasket, Big Spender. For a non-opera fan, it was a revelation to hear her voice in a field I could understand and appreciate; Brueggergosman almost overwhelms the lyrics with her power, the short phrase of the show tunes over before her voice is even revving up. But what a tone, what marvelous, perfect notes she hits. The songs glide by too quickly, Blue Skies, They Can’t take That Away From Me, it’s over way too fast, what a pity she couldn’t do a complete album of jazz.

Measha’s like a home run hitter at batting practice, knocking every one over the wall, yelling “is that all you got?”

Of course, there’s the rest of the disc, and The Jive Kings have quickly become one of the country’s top jazz units. Sure, they hooked onto the ongoing swing revival, but here they leave Johnny Favourite, Brian Setzer and the rest in the dirt. Their songs aren’t reworked standards and comedy numbers for the Johnny-come-latelys to horn-driven jazz. The bandleaders have written new, supple numbers with interesting lyrics and rich arrangements, horn charts that leap out with harmonies. The modern touches are fascinating: slicing, distorted guitar solos, a cover of Tom Waits’ wacky Telephone Call From Istanbul. The Jive Kings are the real deal, on disc and live, as anyone who has seen their recent shows can attest.

Bob Mersereau, The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, January 6, 2001

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The Halifax Herald, November 12, 2000 - Enthusiasm and exuberance bubble right out of the jewel case on P.E.I.'s wunderkind jazz band The Jive Kings.

Enthusiasm and exuberance bubble right out of the jewel case on P.E.I.'s wunderkind jazz band The Jive Kings.

Sometimes their energy excites reminiscences of The Shuffle Demons from the '70s, and at other times the in your face brassiness of the ensemble-they all play on the bright side of instrumental timbre-evoke visions of Blood Sweat and Tears.

But they are their own band, without apology. Michael Ross (vocals, keyboards, trumpet), Barrie Sorensen (saxes, flute, clarinet-and composer and arranger), Dan Warren on lead trumpet and flugel horn, Bob Nicholson on trombones and tuba, Perry Williams on guitar and banjo, Deryl Gallant on upright bass and Alan Dowling on drums and percussion do everything themselves.

They compose, arrange, perform and share the studio chores of recording, mastering, and producing. The recorded sound is very bright but it matches their brash energy and what-the-hell approach to soloing and arranging.

Their solos convince without strain, especially Sorensen on alto and tenor, Warren on trumpet and flugel and Ross, who sings with a light, distinctive voice, his tone a kind of velvet drizzle as opposed to Mel Torme's famous velvet fog.

The repertoire is saucy, calling up jive, dixie, and something unique in each song, like their appealing rendition of Telephone Call From Istanbul (Tom Waits).

All of this puts this recording in a special category of excellence. But that's not all. They introduce Measha Bruggergosman, the operatic soprano from Fredericton with the spun gold voice. And it puts this recording way over the top.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking operatic sopranos never really get the hang of jazz. They always sound like they are slumming, dumbing down their powerhouse voices so that Gershwin won't sound like Wagner.

But the truly astonishing Measha B. sings this repertoire like she was born knowing how it should go. She's perfectly at home with it's grit and sultry sauciness. And the power she pours into the pretty but white bread Blue Skies, for example, would shrivel Bing Crosby's mild elegance to a cinder. She gives the Blue of the title a wholly other significance in the way she bends, warps and wrings a wail out of the notes.

She sings Summertime, Big Spender, They Can't Take That Away From Me, and Ella's A-tisketA-tasket, though this last tune lies right on the break in her voice so she sounds uncharacteristically thin on it.

Nevermind. This is a great CD for Bruggergosman and she finds her own kind of brassy extravagance to match that of the band.

All in all, the only thing left to say is, Holy Smoke.

Stephen Pedersen , The Halifax Herald, November 12, 2000

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The Guardian, October 27, 2000 - Jive Kings' new album might be better than its debut ECMA winner

When your first album nets an East Coast Music Award for jazz artists of the year what do you do for an encore?
If you're Charlottetown's Jive Kings you try to top it.
Easier said than done.
Did they succeed?
The answer is an unequivocal yes.
While their debut album, Spoon For A Knife, remains a personal favourite, the band's second outing is likely to generate even more attention, and for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the contribution of featured guest vocalist Measha Brüggergosman, a rising Canadian soprano whom the band was introduced to earlier this year in Sydney at the East Coast Music Awards.
Brüggergosman, whose performance proved to be one of the highlights of this year's awards show, shared the stage with the Jive Kings at this past summer's Indian River Festival and it became obvious to both parties there was a chemistry there worthy of taking to the next level.
That next level was the recording studio where they laid down the tracks for a series of standards for the band's second album, which they've chosen simply to call The Jive King with Measha Brüggergosman.
Their collaborations on classics like Irving Berlin's Blue Skies, the Dubose Heyward/George Gershwin chestnut Summertime and the Dorothy Fields/Cy Coleman gem Big Spender will give you goosebumps.
So much power, so much range, so much pure oomph!.
Brüggergosman, who's now pursuing graduate studies in Germany, makes a wonderful contribution to the album, but even without her the band's sophomore outing would be a choice piece of work.
The range of material is broader, the originals are bigger and bolder, and the band, with considerably more miles under their collective belts than they had together when Spoon For A Knife was recorded, is a tighter performance unit.
The ensemble work here is noticeably stronger - not that there were any great gaps in the line before- and there are some big solos from from sax player Barrie Sorensen, lead trumpet player Dan Warren, keyboard player Michael Ross, trombone player Bob Nicholson and guitarist Perry Williams.
Another significant factor at play here is an increase in the basic production values of the recording. Williams, who also recorded, edited and mastered the album at his own studio has, I've been told, invested a chunk of change to upgrade some of the technology he's been using. If that's the case, the money was well spent because the highs are crisper and clearer, the bottom end has more bounce and the middle range is alive and vibrant, all of which is important when you're working with a full horn section.
There isn't a bad track on this album and several tracks have what it takes to knock you on your can. If the Jive Kings don't earn their second nomination for jazz artists of the year for this album I'd really be surprised. ...

Doug Gallant, The Guardian, October 27, 2000

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The Guardian, August 14, 2000 - Something to smile about
(Note - Boldfacing was added by the Jive Kings and did not appear in The Guardian article)

Judging by the smiles on the faces of its organizers, the Indian River Festival concert series has been going well. One of the widest grins belongs to festival president Mary Crane. "We've had good things happening since we began the summer," says Crane. "Audiences are up by 20 per cent to 25 per cent, and we had a full house for Measha Brüggergosman and the Jive Kings." The last time numbers were that high was back in 1991, when an up-and-coming group called the Rankins performed at St. Mary's, the venue for the summer concert series. This time, chairs were added to the aisles on both sides of the church, many visitors insisted on being allowed to stand, while others had to be turned away. The recent Midsummer Magic series, consisting of four concerts on consecutive nights, seems to have been the icing on the cake. "It really was magic," says Crane. "We knew it would go well. We were getting calls all through July." Executive director Katy Baker, has a similar take on it. "Everything went incredibly well — the music, the attendance, the volunteers." And she had high praise for the artistic director Robert Kortgaard. "He brings so much to the festival. He's not just a knowledgeable, talented musician. He's well liked and respected in music circles, and very easy to get along with."

She also comments on the special chemistry which existed between Brüggergosman and the Jive Kings, which led to several standing ovations. "They really got a lot of mutual enjoyment from their performance together. The Jive Kings were fabulous, while Measha was very dynamic and charismatic." Summer residents Elizabeth and Michael Bliss were equally impressed. "We've been going to concerts (at St. Mary's) more regularly since last year," says Michael. "Now, we're hooked. That's partly because of the quality this year." Bliss adds that the music is of national, even international, calibre. "If there's a better music festival in Canada at this time, I don't know where it is."

So, what accounts for the turnaround in the fortunes of the festival, which has now been running for five years? Crane puts it down to a shift in marketing strategy. And that, she says, has a lot to do with ideas guru Doug Hall, a summer resident of Sea View. "Doug helped to clarify our marketing focus. He got us to understand what we have here. When you understand that, you can be much clearer about marketing it." The festival committee decided that they were offering a special experience. The word 'magic' helped to reinforce that. The titles of the concerts —Viva Italia, Soirée française —were chosen because they suggested something special and different. "We also enhanced the experience by offering improved food and drink," says Crane. "Gourmet coffee and tea. Home-made treats. And the addition of cushions, for which Doug was responsible, has helped to create a new level of comfort." Crane points out that the festival has always offered quality programs and artists, but this year there was the added bonus of a royal visit, which highlighted the choice of St. Mary's for its much- vaunted acoustics. "That really provided some panache." This year, at Hall's suggestion, the membership structure has been revamped. "He suggested the idea of promoting the patron package," says Crane. "He said: 'If the people who want to support this have the financial means, they won't mind doing it' — and they didn't. That was a real boost to our morale." Now, the festival committee is eagerly awaiting the release of a CD which has been compiled by Kortgaard and CBC music host Adrien Hoffman. The CD consists of a selection of recordings made at last year's concert series. One spinoff from this year's outstanding attendance figures will be an increased contribution to the church restoration fund. "That's always been our goal," says Crane. "In the past, we've been donating, but never enough."

The value of the St. Mary's experience has not escaped the attention of Dan Norris, a regular attendee at the festival concerts. Norris, who is the director of culture and heritage for the municipality of Halifax, has offered to conduct a workshop for anyone interested in how to organize and structure a cultural tourism event. Crane believes his experience of heritage buildings will be an asset. Crane is willing to admit that she did not have a clear vision for the summer music festival when the first concert was held in 1995. "We weren't really looking far ahead. It was like stepping off a cliff. I didn't know what we were doing or where we were going. " The next step, she says, is to sit down and draw up a new five-year plan. "We have a great idea and it's taking shape. Now we have to decide where we go from here." The creation of the new vision will be developed at a workshop to be conducted by Hall in the fall. Perhaps the Bliss family's hope will be for more of the same. "It's been a good summer —beautiful music in the most beautiful setting, memorable, breathtaking performances, multiple standing ovations —what more could anyone ask of a festival?"

Upcoming concerts: Friday, August 18 — Elements with Este Mundo. Sunday, August 20 — In Performance with Richard Kapp and Mela Tenenbaum Sunday, August 27 — The Wit, Wisdom and Wonder of Bach. A harpsichord recital by Kensington native Gordon Murray. Sunday, August 27 - A Taste of Elegance with Sung-Ha Shin-Bouey, Margaret Isaacs and Blue Engine. Monday, August 28 — Festival finale. For further details, call 836-4933. Kensington correspondent Mike England can be reached by phone at 836-3190 or by e-mail:;

Mike England, Special to The Guardian, August 14, 2000

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Reverb, February, 2000 - Something to smile about

The Jive Kings sound is crisp, and sharp. The eight piece swing band from Charlottetown has a punch in it’s playing. The members spread the musical spotlight equally and democratically amongst themselves- each one contributes at least three good time solos on the CD; the band makes use of arrangements which allow one or two solos per number. I suspect as a live band, the Jive Kings would really be in the groove. The ultimate house party band, in fact (Johnny Favourite notwithstanding) - all the songs inhabit that glorified realm of low-class gangster esprit, of nights of "let loose and let wild," nights which inevitably end in the foggy haze of the clink, pleading "honestly officer, it wasn’t me - it was the band that got me all riled up."

Dan Walsh, Reverb, February, 2000

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The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2000 - Jive Kings groove to top in jazz/artist group set

SYDNEY, N.S. - One of the key reasons so many new artists make the major financial commitments required to attend the East Coast Music Awards is the opportunity to introduce their music to a whole new audience, an audience that may or may not include some of the music industry's biggest movers and shakers. It's a calculated risk. Depending on your time slot and the competition you're up against in that time slot, the people you're hoping to impress most may or may not be there. Depending on where you're playing, some of those people may not even find your venue.But some times everything, or almost everything, comes together. Such was the case Friday night when Charlottetown's Jive Kings, who won in the category of jazz artist/group, kicked off the Rockin' Kitchen Party at Sydney's Bicentennial Arena.

One of the more promising events on a schedule where several events every day looked too good to pass up, the Rockin House Party featured two acts on host Bruce Morel's management roster, the popular Moncton blues and R&B act Glamour Puss, and Newfoundland's much-touted Fables, who fuse contemporary rock 'n' roll and celtic music into a full-fledged gael. Closing off that bill was The Vagrants, a promising ska/hip-hop act from New Brunswick.

A small-to-medium sized contingent from Prince Edward Island including members of The Rude Mechanicals, who'd played a rock-solid set earlier in the evening at the Yamaha Continuous Jam, knew what to expect from the Jive Kings, but many were caught off guard when the eight-piece swing orchestra ripped into their first number. For the next hour it was jump 'n' jive time as they bounced, bopped and boogied their way from one big band number to the next, dividing their time almost equally between original numbers from their debut CD, Spoon For A Knife, and cover versions of swing standards from the '30s and '40s.

Lead singer, keyboard player and trumpet player Mike Ross seemed to be almost everywhere, doing almost everything, much to the delight of his highly-receptive audience, and virtually everybody in the band took front and center stage with a series of riveting solos. To say their set went over well would be something of an understatement. Guitarist Perry Williams said afterwards the band was more than happy with its performance, that everything had come together for them on stage, the energy levels, the solos, the soundmix. "We feel pretty good about it," he said. Several key industry players caught their performance and a number of them were favourably impressed.

Doug Gallant, The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2000

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The Island Edition, Feb. 2000 - "Spoon For A Knife" Review by Jane Ledwell

There's only one problem with dance music: it compels me to dance. Listening to it in the privacy of my own home requires more open space than I have the budget to rent. I usually need a fairly compelling reason to listen to recordings of danceable music. The Jive Kings are the most danceable swing band in town, and their turn-of-this-century CD release, Spoon for a Knife, is worth moving some living room furniture and polishing your dancing shoes for.

The band covers two familiar tunes: they swing into an incredibly cheeky version of Jimi Hendrix "Purple Haze" and a suitably cheesy version of "Copacabana" with percussion breaks that will have you moving kitchen furniture, too, to accommodate that conga line. But the real story is in the original compositions, most written and arranged by Barrie Sorensen, many with lyrics contributed by Mike Ross. The compositions are consistently tight, though they leave plenty of air for solo instrumental interventions that highlight band members' individual prowess. All the band members except upright bass player Deryl Gallant step up to the solo mike. Solos by Sorensen on saxophone and Ross on piano, as well as features from percussionist Alan Dowling and trombonist Bob Nicholson, stand out as particularly polished.

The lyrics aren't extraordinary, but they also aren't the point. The jailhouse rock described in "Spoon for a Knife" - "She killed away all the men in her life/And now she uses a spoon for a knife" - is fun on its own, but it's much more evocative set to a slinky swing. The lyrics hit their nonsensical best (and live up to the quirky promise of the album title) with the au courant banter in "Press 2 for 'Oh Yeah!'" For the most part, the recording (produced by band-members Barrie Sorensen and Perry Williams) keeps the levels for the band too low for my liking, so it's also exciting to hear them finally overtake the vocal tracks at the end of "Press 2" when it whinnies to an end.

Prince Edward Island produces a lot of music for dancing, from each generation's crop of fiddlers to each school year's new crop of rock bands that play the small island club circuit. Thank the good red mud that there's some diversity in the offerings. It's great to hear the Jive Kings' energy find its way from their usual live venues to my home CD player. It's great to hear that a bunch of musicians who are mostly second- and third-generation graduates of PEI school band programmes can come back to Charlottetown and gig in a swing band. And it's even better to be able to say their recording is fun.

Roll back your carpets, PEI. Put away anything breakable. Shove the sofa into the hall. And pick up a Spoon for a Knife.
RATING: 8 (out of 10)

Jane Ledwell, The Island Edition, Feb. 2000

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The Atlantic GIG, Dec. 1999 - Reviews column by Andrew Younger

There has been a lot said over the past couple of years about the resurgence of swing music. The problem is, not many acts do it well. The Jive Kings are an exception. Spoon for a Knife is an example of some of the best performance, playing, and writing I have heard in a long time.

The Jive Kings hail from Prince Edward Island and were known, for a short time, as the Swing Kings. They are an eight-piece band and this is their first CD. It was released in October 1999, but it is being re-released to a wider market (i.e. outside of PEI). Most, if not all of the band are alumni of the UPEI music department.

This is an interesting CD. There are the type of songs you would expect. They are mostly original, catchy, swing tunes. But then you are hit by tunes such as Jimi Hendix's "Purple Haze". (No, this is not a misprint.) This is a brilliant and original (swing) interpretation of the song. Even Hendrix faithfuls will not be disappointed. Also on the disc is Barry Manilow's "Copacabana". The band says they were afraid of a fan revolt if they did not include the song. It is a strong cover and it shows. Other highlights on the CD include originals such as "Drunk", "At the Mack", and "The Night I Died on Chestnut Street".

The band had fun recording this CD and it shows. It is rare for the energy of a live performance to come through on a studio CD. On this one it does. A credit to the talents and professionalism of the band. This is a disc that can be listened to from beginning to end without boredom and without skipping tracks.

If you want to buy a local swing artist's recording and can't decide between the better-known Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra and the Jive Kings, pick the Jive Kings. The CD is far superior in music, in playing and, most importantly, in listenability. Even if you do not want to buy a swing CD, buy this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Spoon for a Knife gets 9 out of 10

Andrew Younger, The Atlantic GIG, Dec. 1999

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The Guardian, Oct. 1999 - Review by Doug Gallant

One of the true bright spots on Prince Edward Island’s music scene this past winter was the coming together of some of the province’s most accomplished jazz musicians to form the Swing Kings. Over the past several months this eight-piece combo with the classic big band sound has attracted a loyal following, one which continues to grow at a steady clip and which continues to encompass a broad demographic. To understand why this band has caught on the way it has one need only pop in a copy of their just released debut album, Spoon for a Knife.

It will quickly become apparent that this band, which recently underwent a change of name to the Jive Kings, is truly a cut above. Recorded at Virtual Studios with band members Barrie Sorensen and Perry Williams serving as the albums producers, Spoon for a Knife is an upbeat and exciting set that features almost exclusively original material. All but two were penned by Sorensen or Mike Ross, working together or on their own. Topping off the mix are two covers, Barry Manilow's campy "Copacabana" and a somewhat more unusual choice, the Jimi Hendrix classic "Purple Haze", which gets a unique swing treatment.

Their original material, while managing to fall within the broad parameters of swing, manages to cover a lot of ground. On "At the Mack", for example, one can detect the influence of the jump blues style of Louis Jordan. "Drunk" has a strong latin influence, while the title track, "Spoon for a Knife", has a Bourbon Street growl.

The vocals are solid and the instrumental work throughout the album is top notch, spiked by several hot solos. An impressive first outing, Spoon for a Knife deserves a shot at the East Coast Music Awards for best jazz recording.

Doug Gallant, The Guardian, Oct. 22, 1999

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