The usually staid London Times caught them at Ronnie Scott's and said they had turned the club into "an uptown ballroom of the Prohibition Era." The not-so-staid Jazz Times has described them as "perhaps the only vestigial reminder of authentic Swing Era swing left in the world today."
They are Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans, who draw their inspiration from the original Savoy Sultans. The originals were the house band of Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, the "Home of the Happy Feet" for more than three decades until it closed in 1958.
The new Sultans, whose drumming leader powered the Lucky Millinder band of the '40s, will open Tuesday for two weeks at Charlie's Georgetown where, for the first time in its two years of operation, the supper club will push tables aside and roll up the carpets for some rug cutting, jitterbugging, Lindy Hopping, feet-gone-crazy fun.
"We just came back from Cork, Ireland," Francis said from his home in New York. "A lot of people don't know that the people there are pretty hip to jazz. We were a big hit over there." Much of the band's work, in fact, takes place abroad and Francis is disturbed by this. "It's really disheartening to know that you have a good product that's accepted all over the world except the place that it should be accepted." The 10-piece band will feature solos by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hoptin, altoist Howard Johnson, pianist Sammy Benskin and vocalist Julia Steele.
As if re-creation of the Savoy Ballroom scene won't be enough for swing-era fans, this week has added a bonus. Maxine Sullivan, whose hit record of "Loch Lomond" brought her to fame in 1938, will sing Wednesday night at 9:30 in the Shoreham's Marquee Lounge. Sullivan, whose associations over the years add up to a roster of jazz greats including Earl Hines, Benny Goodman and Benny Carter, will be inducted into the Shoreham's Entertainment Hall of Fame that evening.