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Jazz Sébastien Bach

Jazz Sébastien Bach

It’s fifty years since Ward Swingle and a group of Paris-based session singers first experimented with translating Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier (BWV 846-93) into a swing feel. Without changing a note of the original scores, they added jazz scat and a rhythm section to intricate melody lines that had never before been attempted by the human voice. The result was the unmistakeable, era-defining sound of “Swingle Singing.” Their 1963 debut LP took them to number one in the charts, won multiple Grammy awards and redefined what the voice could achieve.

Five decades on, the Swingle Singers are still at the vanguard of vocal music. Successive generations of singers have expanded the repertoire to include jazz, pop, rock and Latin music, via collaborations with artists as diverse as Luciano Berio to Jamie Cullum. The Swingle Singers of 2013 are an a cappella super-group complete with a five-octave range and their own vocal rhythm section. But the group has always kept Bach’s music close to their hearts.

In celebration of their fiftieth anniversary, today’s line-up of seven young and versatile voices will present a special Bach program on 23 May 2013, featuring some of their favorite preludes, fugues, airs and inventions, as part of the ongoing Bach Unwrapped series at Kings Place in London.

– Kings Place