Count on Lindy
Peter Liu and the Pollcats
As Duke Ellington said, “It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)”. And swing is what Peter Liu and the Pollcats have in abundance in their debut album.
The group is an Ottawa favourite at swing dances, where their enthusiasm and tight playing keep the energy going for hours of dancing. One song follows the next and the neither the dancers nor the musicians seem to flag. For this CD, they've chosen 14 of their favourite pieces, honed by many hours of playing, into compact and emphatic renditions.
The songs on the album are tried and true: “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Steppin' Out with My Baby”, “For All We Know”, “Lover Come Back To Me”. They have a definite Swing Era vibe, but listening to them, they feel fresh. They're songs that have lasted because they're fun to listen to, with danceable rhythms and sophisticated lyrics. Although there are a few slower ballads, most of the tunes are upbeat. I particularly appreciated hearing “Wham Rebop Boom Bam” on the CD, because it's often hard to understand all its super-speed lyrics at a dance.
The Pollcats are fronted by Peter Liu, whose enthusiasm for this upbeat strain of jazz comes through in person and on the album. His smooth tenor voice easily projects the lyrics, and he's got a real smile in his voice. I particularly enjoyed reed player Scott Poll, whose clarinet often acts as a second voice, and which comes to the fore in the sweet and mellow “Jersey Bounce”. Peter Turner's trombone adds sassy interjections (for example in “Frim Fram Sauce”), and Magnus Paulson on guitar, Yves Laroche on piano, Alex Mastronardi on bass, and Steve Gallant on drums keep the essential swing rhythms strong.
There's also one original on the album. The title track, “Count on Lindy”, has lyrics by Liu and music by Liu and Laroche. Its message is one that Liu has often told audiences: that music and dancing (including the Lindy Hop mentioned in this song) can make you feel better when you're down or stressed. Liu is a psychologist by profession, and an enthusiastic swing dancer himself, and the song is very true to him.
Liu has been singing with this group since 2013. I've seen the Pollcats play for both dedicated swing dancers and more general audiences, keeping them entertained and not letting the energy flag. The one criticism I would have of this album is that all the songs are kept quite short – even shorter than in their live shows – with limited room for solos. I would have liked to hear the talented instrumentalists in this band stretch out a bit more, or for Liu to do more scatting.
I once heard a k.d. lang album described as “great music to do housework to”. I'd apply that description to this CD too. Listening to its energy and swing makes even boring tasks fun.
Peter Liu and the Pollcats will release their CD, Count on Lindy, at a dance organized by the Ottawa Swing Dance Society, on Friday, October 13, at St-Joseph's Parish, 174 Wilbrod Avenue (at Laurier Avenue) in Sandy Hill. The dance begins at at 9:30 p.m. The OSDS offers beginner and intermediate lessons starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $12.
Read related stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca: