I’ve been meaning to write a review of Wellington Shake ‘Em On Downers first album ‘Shake it Down’ for months now- since I heard them at the National Jazz Festival in April– and as I’ve just seen that they released a second album not long after I’d purchased their first album, it’s about time that someone (i.e. me!) review their first album.
Formed in 2010 The Wellington City Shake ‘Em On Downers describe themselves as playing ‘hot Dadaist swing’- and frankly that’s as good a description of their aesthetic as any. Playing jazz standards from the 1920s and 1930s and originals in the style of early jazz from New Orleans, Chicago and New York and early Kansas City Swing sounds (with a few kiwi twists), the Shake ‘Em On Downers have been delighting New Zealand jazz audiences- even if it took me a while to catch on (I’m blaming the PhD…)- and as they say ‘startling wildlife from Waiheke to Milford Sound’ ever since. Recorded and released in 2013 The Wellington City Shake ‘Em On Downers Shake It On Down is a firecracker of an album. Comprised mostly of originals by various band members in collaboration in the style of a 1920s/1930s New Orleans band this is an album designed to get you on your feet and grooving.
Shake ‘Em On Downers play ‘R.H.F.D. (‘Taint No Sin)’ on TV One’s Good Morning programme
What is fascinating about the band and this album is that while they play in an early jazz/swing aesthetic they aren’t glorifying it, or making it a museum piece, it is a living, growing organism that they seem to be continuously expanding on. What The Shake ‘Em Downer’s are not is a Trad jazz band (with all that that term implies). In their hands the early jazz/swing aesthetic feels like it is a natural way of expressing their musical needs rather than a novelty or specifically trying to capture a particular period or musical style. Shake It On Down also feels very modern, and it captures the feeling of modernity and excitement that early jazz recordings have. Standouts on this album are ‘Let’s Get Messy’, ‘Cuba Street Rag’, ‘Shake it On Down’, both standards on the album: ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and ‘Honeysuckle Rose’, and the final track the original ‘R.H.F.D (‘Taint No Sin)’. The album is available on the Shake It On Downer’s Bandcamp page (along with their second album) in digital and physical formats.
From their new album ‘Live At Orange’