The Swing Legacy

What kind of swing music does this
Massachusetts swing band play?

The Swing Legacy is a Massachusetts-based swing band, six pieces plus singer, presenting the repertoire, polish, and powerful beat of the great black big bands of the swing era (1934-1945). We are what was known in the 30’s and 40’s as a jump band — a small group playing arranged, riff-oriented, hard-driving 4-beat swing music. Our instrumentation is trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums.

The Swing Legacy is unusual among Massachusetts swing bands, in two respects:

First, this small band operates musically like a big band, playing a large book of 140 arrangements written (by leader Henry Francis) in a big-band swing style. These idiomatic original arrangements are designed to produce the fullest possible sound, simulating a big swing band, and they make the group sound larger than six pieces. This is accomplished by having the three horns phrase together like a sax or trumpet section in a big band. The arrangements also serve to maintain a high level of musical excitement throughout each number, especially by providing written instrumental backing, usually rhythmic figures (“riffs”), behind the improvised jazz solos. We are justifiably known as “The Little Big Band”.

Second, The Swing Legacy functions professionally both as a jazz concert ensemble and as a dance band or wedding band. Most of our repertoire is not only musically captivating but is also great dance music, ranging from relaxed foxtrots to hot jump numbers for jitterbug dancing and East Coast swing for lindy hop dancing. Because of its danceability, swing music is the only type of jazz ever to have been embraced by the American public as a national pop music.

The band works hard (we earn our breaks), and we play with a lot of fire. While many jazz and swing bands seek to soothe their audience with subdued, polite music, The Swing Legacy prefers to arouse its listeners with exuberant, assertive music. This is definitely hot jazz, not cool!

The exceptionally high quality of our players ensures that the ensemble is musically extremely tight and professional sounding. Disciplined, technically superior musicians and good, well-crafted arrangements are the two indispensable ingredients which enable a small ensemble to produce a convincing “big band” sound.

The Swing Legacy is stylistically convincing because all our members are marinated in the swing idiom — musically speaking, swing music is their “native tongue”. Each musician contributes both precise, swinging ensemble playing in the arrangements and a strong individual musical personality in his jazz solos. Our rhythm engine is guided by Henry’s pithy, forceful piano in the styles of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Fats Waller (all of which are seldom heard these days).

The Swing Legacy performs either as the basic six-piece instrumental unit or with an added female vocalist, the incomparable Debby Larkin — currently, she is on most of our engagements. As with the purely instrumental numbers, the numbers featuring our singer also employ Henry’s original written arrangements, so all of our repertoire is unified in the same unique style. Debby provides an additional timbre in the band sound and gives an extra dramatic dimension to the overall presentation.

The Swing Legacy has been playing continuously under Henry Francis’ leadership since 1991. For more information about The Swing Legacy, contact Henry.

MA Swing