From jazz singer Peggy Lee to American crooner Frank Sinatra, Denver singer Lannie Garrett often pays tribute to musical icons at her club Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. Now, she’s turning to the greats of American swing in her new series, “Swing Sets.” The concert features jiving tunes by the likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie.
Garrett’s love affair with swing began when she was a little girl.
“It’s not my generation,” Garrett says. “But I always loved to dance and it was music I could dance to.”
She remembers listening to Goodman’s tunes, such as “Sunnyside of the Street” and “Paper Moon.” Later, she discovered the swinging beats of famous bandleader Cab Calloway, American jazzman Lionel Hampton and many more.
“It’s just got that rhythm and beat, and that syncopation,” she says.
The songstress became inspired to put “Swing Sets” together when the After Midnight Band, a sextet based in Denver, performed at her club. The band’s sound and style captivated her. And “Swing Sets” marks her first time working with a clarinetist and vibraphone -- or vibes -- player.
“I love that sound,” Garrett says of the clarinet. “It’s that Benny Goodman sound again.”
Initially, the vibes were not considered by serious jazz musicians. But Lionel Hampton is credited with incorporating the instrument into popular jazz and swing music. As the tale goes, Hampton was performing at the NBC studios in the 1930s when he first encountered it. It looks similar to a xylophone. NBC used the vibes to play its iconic three-chord jingle. Following his gig, Hampton starting playing around with the instrument and became intrigued. He then brought it into a recording session with Louis Armstrong, and it took off from there.
Garrett loves to weave this type of musical history into her shows.
“We get a bunch of younger people in for the shows,” Garrett says. “And it’s so fun to stand in front of them, give them this information and have their faces light up because they get it.”
Another example: Benny Goodman was one of the first bandleaders to have an integrated band.
“I just love those stories,” Garrett says.
“Swing Sets” continues Saturday nights at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret through the end of March -- with the exception of Feb. 14, when Garrett performs her special Valentine's Day concert, "Comes Love."