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Ka‘au Crater Boys’
"Swing Around the World"
Various artists (Putumayo World Music)
"Swing Around the World" is a good sampler of how 1930s and '40s American swing music's infectious sound translated in places like Zimbabwe in southern Africa, the island country of Mauritius, Italy and here in Hawaii.
It's good to hear Troy Fernandez's plucky ukulele in the context of international swing. There is a slight error in the liner notes, however, as the song is not "in praise of surfing," per se, but is a tuneful tribute to the guys who sometimes sacrifice their lives picking the little limpet snails that cling to shoreline rocks, a luau delicacy for us locals.
Other "ono" tunes from this charming collection include the opening track by Zimbabwe's the Cool Crooners of Bulawayo, "I Van Enkulu." Made up of elderly musicians from the country's working-class township, the song tells of how police would show up in large vans to arrest patrons of unlicensed beer halls, back in the early years when the African country was fighting for independence from British rule.
From across the globe are Triton's wop-doo-wah "Mari Niça Swing" from Mauritius, and two Italian entries. Alfredo Rey e la sua Orchestra do a 1940s take on a rock hit, "Fotoromanza," that made that country's charts 40 years hence. Comedian and television personality Renzo Arbore takes a cool jaunt through "Mamma Mi Place il Ritmo (Mama, the Rhythm Makes Me Happy)," with help from his Swing Maniacs.
But the bulk of the tracks are U.S.-made, with fine contemporary contributions from the popular Squirrel Nut Zippers ('98's "Pallin' With Al"), the New Orleans Jazz Vipers doin' a tune from 1932, "Blue Drag," and the spirit of Duke Ellington and his plunger mute trumpeter Cootie Williams lives on in New Orleans' Duke Heitger and his band's rendition of "Swing Pan Alley."