Like Swallows to Capistrano

Wally’s Swing World returns to the marvelous atmosphere of the Gordon Biersch restaurant in San Jose, California. If you can swing it, you just have to see them in this venue.

 Thursdays July 25th & August 29th Wally's Cocktail Combo Gordon Biersch, San Jose 9:00 p.m. - midnight (408) 294-6785

For more info on the band, check out their very nice website. And for a review of their second album “Full Swing Ahead” see “Loading Dock Dark Alley Swing” right here at Know Your Music.

Loading Dock Dark Alley Swing

I promised to tell you more about Wally’s Swing World. Instead of procrastinating and forgetting, let’s just get it over with, shall we?

Some years ago, I made a business trip to San Jose, California (near San Francisco.) It was an all-day training class for some really bad software I was forced to use. They had one terminal (no, not computer; a Wyse 30 dumb terminal) for two students, and I shared one with a smart and friendly guy named Kerry who lived just north of San Diego.

Whenever I travel to a new city, my mission is to find a local brewpub to check out. Kerry’s mission, assigned by his employer, was to go eat at a particular restaurant he had enjoyed on his last visit to San Jose. The restaurant was Gordon Biersch, and the matchbook Kerry had made it clear that our missions were bound by a single destiny.

We took BART all the way across San Jose. I don’t recommend it. When we arrived, it looked like the wrong address; while the Gordon Biersch site shows a friendly, well lit entrance what we saw looked like a gate into the alley. However, the well-dressed hostess assured us we were in the right place.

They wanted to seat us by the brick wall you can see in the photos, but to Kerry’s everlasting credit he asked if we could sit at one of the tables near the loading dock to the left. We sat; we ate; we drank. About 7:00, they stopped seating folks on the loading dock and cleared all the tables away. When they started setting up band equipment, we rummaged through the flyers and calendars on the table and discovered that we were about to see someone called “Wally’s Swing World.” At the time, I was disappointed because the act one week previous had been the Dave Matthews Band, and not some unknown. I didn’t stay disappointed for long.

I honestly don’t remember much of the playlist for the evening, but I do remember that it was one of the better live shows I’ve ever seen. Wally and the boys come out playing fast and furious, and after their THIRD hour-long set, they didn’t appear to have slowed any. Swing, rockabilly, standards from the 30s; all were performed with style and grace (or, where appropriate, with wit and a wink.) Wally is a master of really bad humor (“See my new suit? Handmade by those two famous sisters, Polly and Esther!” ) He’s also a master of his Gretsch Country Club guitar. The band’s albums don’t show it much, but their live repertoire includes quite a bit of snappy, polished, sometimes fiery guitar work.

All the band members are excellent at what they do, but as a wannabee drummer I have to mention the masterful Dodger Posey. From gentle background rhythyms to blinding runs and fills, Dodger made every lick count, and made it all sound like jazz ought to sound.

After the third set, Wally announced that they’d be back for one more after a short break. We decided to do the professional thing and get back to the hotel and get enough sleep to benefit from the next day’s class. Wally's Swing World: Full Swing AheadI won’t make that mistake next time.

Wally’s Swing World has a nicely done website where you can read about the band, order their latest two albums, and sign up for a monthly newsletter and calendar. (Note to spam haters – I frequently use test addresses when I first sign up for newsletters. The address I used for Wally’s list was never used by any other organization, I’m pleased to say.) You can even hire the boys for private events. While the price is a bit out of my range for a private party, if our company gets around to hosting an event with live music, I’ll strongly recommend Wally and company. And of course, next time you’re in the San Francisco bay area, look ’em up and give ’em a listen. Whether you like swing or not, I’m certain you’ll love the show.

If You Ever Plan to Motor West

This song’s been as many places as the hiway itself. Originally penned by jazz pianist Bobby Troup, it’s been covered by nearly everyone. Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Mott the Hoople, and the Rolling Stones have all had a crack at it, and it remains intact.

Troup had quite a career as a jazz pianist and composer, but somehow, as someone who spent the early 70s glued to a television, I can only think of him as Dr. Joe Early from the series ‘Emergency.’ Both of his albums listed at (he recorded six) contain his version of the song. The two versions I’m listening to right now couldn’t be more different from each other, but I love ’em both.

The more traditional version of the two is by a Santa Cruz band called “Wally’s Swing World.” I discovered Wally Trindade and company on a business trip to San Jose, and I was stunned by the intensity of this little swing band performing literally on a loading dock in an alley. (A full review of the group’s efforts is planned; ask me about it, in case I forget.) Their second album, “Full Swing Ahead” (1996) opens with a very bouncy, very traditional reading of “Route 66.” Wally has a great voice, and the band has performed together long enough that everything has the crisp precision of a Glenn Miller recording. Further down the playlist, Wally’s cheery passage through “I Get A Kick Out of You” made it impossible for me to listen to Sinatra’s version again; it’s Wally’s tune now. Although it was a star of the band’s live act, Wally’s guitar (a ’58 Gretsch Country Club . . . be still my beating heart) doesn’t really show up until their fiery blitz of “American Bandstand.” It’s worth the wait. Trindade could make it on his guitar-playing alone.

The album closes with “Mack the Knife” which is remarkably underplayed, considering the clowning Wally does during the live show. Musical integrity seems to have compelled the band to turn in a very straightforward version, and they do it well. A third album, “More Than A Swing Thing” is currently available; I’d recommend getting one quickly; their first album, “Welcome to Wally’s Swing World” (1994) is out of print and can’t be had for love or money (although, if anyone’s got one, I’m willing to negotiate.) And of course, while you’re there, get “Full Swing Ahead” too.

In a very different place, Depeche Mode cranks out an atypical rock anthem; it’s not your father’s “Route 66” and it’s not your daughter’s Depeche Mode. This interpretation comes out of the chute with a repetetive, pounding guitar riff that makes it clear that we’re heading into unmapped territory. Vocals, sung to an almost traditonal background, alternate with the crunching guitar to make a song that drives harder than any other version I’ve heard. When I’m on the road, this is one tune that’s always along.