Forward to the Past

Hang around long enough, and just about everything has a chance to be polished up for another shot at the spotlight. It was about 50 years ago when big-band music faded from the public's fancy. The current revival of all things "swing" has brought several bands to prominence, including the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the Royal Crown Revue and those swingers heading this movement--The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Setzer has made a career of reviving popularly dormant forms of music. He first found fame during the big-hair years of the late '70s/early '80s as part of the rockabilly trio Stray Cats. During the dawn of MTV, the rule was the prettier the singer, the bigger the hit. The music was mostly blah synthesized mush from the likes of Culture Club, Duran Duran and the much-feared A Flock of Seagulls, but somehow in the middle of all this goo there was room for a trio playing an archaic music not popular since the '50s.

It was Setzer's slashing guitar licks that propelled the Cats beyond the novelty-act category. Now, as leader of the BS Orchestra, he is once again featuring a retro approach. In this era of repetitive rap and increasingly bland "alternative" formats, there's suddenly a fresh breeze in the form of pre-rock-era small-band swing.

This ain't the carefully orchestrated charts of the Glenn Millers and Tommy Dorseys of the era; it's loose-limbed jumpin' jive as perfected by Louis Jordan and Louis Prima, tossed in the blender with some tasty rockabilly and plenty of attitude. Friday night, when the BSO swings the Celebrity Theatre, should be a great chance to see what the cries of "Jump Jive 'n' Wail" in those Gap TV commercials are all about.

--David Gofstein

The Brian Setzer Orchestra is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 11, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Cocktails start at 6:30 p.m.; showtime is 8 p.m. 81U2 Souvenirs opens the all-ages bill. General-admission tickets are $26.50 in advance, $28.50 the day of the show. 267-1600 (Celeb), 503-5555 (Dillard's).

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David Gofstein