The Swing Set 

Culture-hounds tap into sound that bridges the age gaps, and a scene takes off

The voice of Sinatra may have been silenced. But the scene that celebrates his sound -- that of sophisticated crooner with, as his obituaries last week reported, "a song for every emotional season" -- could not be thriving with any greater vibrancy.

Swing is selling, and with songs and style that date from Sinatra's '60s cool to Big Band, jump blues, rockabilly and lounge sounds reaching as far back as the 1920s.

It's a sound made fresh both by artists and an audience that is sharing in the musical rediscovery.

You hear it bopping along Orange Avenue downtown, in the energetic club shows of acts such as Rocket 88 and its offshoot, The Blue Flame Combo; the eclectic Swingerhead and its frontman, Michael Andrew; and the upstart Johnny Cool Mobster Swing Band, all of them Orlando-based and building a following.

The venues are following suit. Touring acts -- The Squirrel Nut Zippers, The Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy -- have long had access to local stages. But this month, an anchor of the club circuit abandoned its rock and roll format of five years, calling forth images of Frank and Sammy and Dean to ease its transition from the former Sunset Strip into Rat Pack's on the Avenue. The name change acknowledged a shift that already had taken place.

Not to be overlooked are those for whom the sounds never faded. Bridging the gap between the ages, swing is a social music that still finds its fans in happy-hour lounges and senior centers -- though neo-swing partisans indulge in a more sexy and stylish experience.

And they have options aplenty. On Tuesdays they turn out at Roxy; Fridays and Saturdays, it's Rat Pack's or Sapphire Supper Club or the Langford Hotel; Sundays, it's Atlantic Dance -- Sinatra Night.

There, as everywhere, swing is the thing.


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