Cowboy Jazz is rightfully recognized as the best country-swing band to emerge since Asleep at the Wheel. This Maryland sextet, though, has done far more than simply revive the tradition of Bob Wills. The three-part female vocal harmonies and their witty original material are genuine contributions to the genre. Both contributions are highlighted on their second album, "Swing Boogie."
Kate Bennett, Denise Carlson and Deanna Bogart spread their voices in warm, resonant country tones but then snap off syllables sharply to fit the band's jazzy swing. Carlson's bluesy voice leads the way on the breathless syncopation of the Davis Sisters' "Rock-a-Bye Boogie." Bennett sassily drawls the catchy melody to "Matter of Fact," but later breaks into scat improvisation. The seven originals bring a refreshing female perspective to the Western swing heritage. Bennett's songs are especially good as she laments long-distance relationships on "Cross-Country Blues," or lying men on "How Can You Tell?"
Cowboy Jazz is also a superlative instrumental band, with Barry Sless' pedal steel guitar and Carlson's fiddle chasing each other with slipping, sliding dual leads over the rhythm section's light but crisp swing. Sless and Carlson show off their swinging, sharp-turning runs on two instrumentals: Sless's "Jean-Marie Stomp" and Jan Savitts' "720 in the Books." -- ON RECORD, ON STAGE
COWBOY JAZZ -- Swing Boogie (Rounder 0173).
COWBOY JAZZ with MWWW, The Brotherhood Jazz Ensemble, Velvet Monkeys and the Piligro Orchestra at The Winterfest 83/Writers and Artists Ball at the Wax Museum, Sunday at 6.