Words & Music

Alexander Browne and his Boulevardiers

Alexander Browne, John Cody and Graham Howell

What a treat to be part of this ensemble. The octet’s songbook is strictly 1920s-30s, so very early big band era, which was perfect for my 1927 “Jazz Pirates” Leedy kit. The audience cut a rug, and with tuxes and pomade mandatory, we all looked especially dapper. Looking forward to swinging again soon!

To quote the immortal songwriter Irving Berlin… “C’mon and hear Alexander’s Ragtime Band”!

A long-time champion of the big band style in Vancouver area venues with his Aristocrats of Swing, crooner-bandleader-arranger Alexander Browne has returned to his first musical love – the jazzy, syncopated, devil-may-care dance band sound of the 1920s and early 1930s – with his new group, the Boulevardiers.

It was an opportunity to meet and get to know the original megaphone crooner, Rudy Vallee, Alexander recalls, that provided the original inspiration for him to start his own band.

That was the beginning of a decades-long journey of exploration that has led him to uncover untold hidden treasures of musical history in stacks of orchestrations passed on by former leaders and bandsmen.

Now, with The Boulevardiers, he’s sharing the original, authentic sounds of the most exciting time period of all – the Prohibition Era (1920-33).

“It was a wild and crazy time that still speaks to us today,” Alexander enthuses.

“Flappers and their ‘sheiks’ challenged the social conventions of their parents’ generation, sexy vamps were slinking their across the movie screens, and bathtub gin and jazz were supposed to be leading everyone down the path to degradation. Skirts got shorter, aeroplanes flew further, buildings grew higher, the movies learned how to talk, and the stock market kept on rising until its inevitable fall.”

All of this found its way into the music that poured forth from Tin Pan Alley – and which Alexander brings back, vividly, for new generations – from the vo-do-de-o-do lyrics of songs like Crazy Words, Crazy Tune to the heroines of If You Knew Susie (who didn’t balk at going riding in motor cars) and Louisville Lou (the vamping baby), to the fellow with Happy Feet and the people who murmured Let’s Do It or told Little Little White Lies or danced the Cuban rumba to Mama Inez.

Complimenting Alexander’s smooth vocals are the stellar instrumental skills of the Boulevardiers: trumpeter Henry Christian (Aerosmith’s Marguerita Horns), trombonist Jeremy Berkman (The Turning Point Ensemble, A Touch of Brass), versatile reedmen Tony Sheppard and Graham Howell, pianist Angus Kellett, tuba player David Sabourin (of A Touch of Brass and Tapestry Music fame) and drummer John Cody (Lee Aaron).

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White Rock Sun
May 17, 2017
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