Cats and Dinosaurs • Live!

Cats and Dinosaurs LiveCats and Dinosaurs books themselves as “The world´s most radical swing band!” They play original trad jazz and swing tunes with feminist and socialist lyrics. We covered their English language album a couple years back but most of their material, including their latest live album, is in Swedish. I  return to this political band in a foreign land over and over because they are just so good. If there was a jazz band in the states with shows of this energy I’d be following them around like the Grateful Dead. Hearing ecstatic screams rather than polite claps from a jazz audience is refreshing.

Though I have no clue what they are saying the lyric is presented powerfully, and I imagine convincingly. If their goal is building political conviction in an audience I’m sure they accomplish it. Their sound draws on klezmer, jazz manouche, jump blues, and other styles and though it can sound like Ska or a bit punky that’s the singing more than the playing. This is simply unusually aggressive hot swing. Not always fast, but at all times passionate. Rather than replace the lyrics of classic recordings they frequently compose new music that is top notch. Toned down these compositions could fit in the repertoire of any trad or swing band.

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The only place the language barrier holds me back at all is the occasional spoken intros, once the music starts I’m hanging on every word and every beat. The playing is collective and organic, group improvisation following roadmaps designed to bring the audience into a frenzy. Old timers never get it when I say this, but the leap from punk rock to 20s jazz is one of the shortest in music. A large number of younger jazz musicians started out listening to punk and playing in ska bands. The heat produced when either is played well, regardless of speed, is very similar. Next time my theory is called into question I’ll be sharing the link to this album.

The download includes three bonus tracks, making it usually long, and I’m not sure if they can all be found on the yellow vinyl release. That vinyl is restricted to just 200 copies and can be delivered for about what a store bought LP costs in the States. It would make an excellent gift for the right teenager or young adult.

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Joe Bebco is available for liner notes and other writing. Reach him at [email protected]

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