Volume 92, Issue 48
Friday, November 27, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Little Bigs keep James swingin'
Gazette file photo
By Aaron Wherry
Eat your heart out Gordie Johnson, the premiere guitarist in Canada is not big and sugary, he's the cool and bluesy Colin James.
Some fans may not remember the old Colin James. He was that Canadian pop rock star who picked up a few Juno awards and a decent fan following a few years ago with minor hits like "I Just Came Back (To Say Goodbye)." After that period in his music career, James moved on to the wonderful world of jazz, blues and swing. And his timing couldn't have been better.
After this change in musical direction a few years back, the swing scene has since exploded into the mainstream. This wave of attention helped carry James back into the national musical spotlight. Suddenly swing and James are cool again.
Tuesday night in front of a healthy crowd at the Drink, James showcased his amazing guitar skills and kept the fans swinging and rocking well into the night. Along with his Little Big Band which features an organist, drummer, bassist and horn section, James entertained with his own style of jazz, blues and swing for an hour and a half set, with two encores.
From the headliner James, sporting a slicked coif, sideburns and a goatee to the organist who spent the night sipping wine and smoking a cigarette, the Little Big Band's musicians seemed to be right out of the cast of Swingers. They didn't just perform, they had style.
The set list was just as swinging, with a mixture of Colin James' originals, swing standards and even a Cab Calloway cover. The Little Big Band and James perfectly complemented each other with a sound that was just as much rock as swing.
Despite the Tuesday night date, the crowd was thoroughly behind James and the band with couples swinging and bopping together throughout. Also notable was the dramatic age range, with generation Xers shoulder to shoulder with baby boomers on the dance floor.
But it all comes back to Colin James. He was the ultra cool crooner, with lightening quick hands on the guitar and superb showman instincts. Even for the anti-swing critic this show was extremely enjoyable. Best were James' periodic tours of the crowd all the while still wailing away on the guitar. He showed why he leads the blues, jazz, and swing movement in Canada as he worked the crowd on stage and off, showcasing his long overlooked skills.
He may not be the mainstream Bryan Adams style rocker he was in the '80s, but he's a far better musician. He has sacrificed Friday night slots playing generic rock, for Tuesday night shows playing quality music which could make anyone like swing.
Long after the swing fad has died its cruel and horrible death, unlike most musicians of this genre, James is an artist who will still deserve attention, respect and admiration.
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