Q & W Music releases Keep Honkin, Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires’ electrifying 2nd CD, on October 23, 2001. With 13 engaging, foot tappin' tracks, an exhilarating mix of originals and swing favorites, including "Undecided," "Goody Goody" and "Air Mail Special," the CD showcases the Boston-based, 9-member-group known for their exceptional musicianship and inspired ability to swing.
Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires features the retro-swing music popularized by the Royal Crown Revue, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Brian Setzer, but informed by the tradition of Jazz legends Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Louis Prima, and Count Basie. The accent here is on big fun as Bombay Jim reminds us at the start of "Let The Good Times Roll” Infectious enthusiasm is evident throughout.
Although this is clearly swing, the variety of tempos and moods, and the tasty improvisations of these master players makes this one of the those CDs that keeps finding its way onto the player. Lead trumpeter and chief arranger Dick Lowell's original, "Voodoo Queen," is a case in point, with a Latin feel and outstanding solos from trombonist Jeff Galindo and tenorman Arnie Karkowsky highlighting a intricate chart with surprising twists and turns.
A unique combination of a hot horn section, a rhythm section that won't quit, and a singer who's right on the mark, the group has been working consistently since their founding in Boston twenty years ago. They have earned acclaim from critics and audiences alike. “Jim Porcella is the only male singer I’ll follow Sinatra with,” — Jim West, Swing830, WCRN. “I couldn’t sit still, hands were sore from applauding. In my music dictionary, Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires will be listed as the word swing.” — Frank Heigh, Quarter Notes Magazine. “CD Pick of the Week. Like other great individualists in jazz, Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires have the ability to make these songs wholly their own, without departing from the melody…This is truly strong, fertile playing by all the musicians.” — Johnny Adams, Monterey County Post. “As if the insistent rhythm section weren’t enough, the other six players in this Boston-based outfit make it clear why the word “swinging” is in their name. These guys cook up a storm… hot stuff.” — Ed Symkus, Tab.
The group’s members — lead vocalist Jim Porcella “Bombay Jim,” drummer Gary Johnson, lead trumpeter Dick Lowell, trumpeter Jeff Stout, trombonist Jeff Galindo, tenor sax player Arnie Krakowsky, pianist Matt Richards, bassist Mark Carlsen and guitarist Jon Wheatley — are among Boston’s top musicians. Five are professors at Berklee School of Music, and collectively they’ve performed with numerous jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, the Buddy Rich Band, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Lionel Hampton, Artie Shaw Orchestra, Herb Pomeroy, Buddy DeFranco, Rosemary Clooney, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Tommy Dorsey Band, Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Joe Lovano, Slide Hampton, Ray Charles and Natalie Cole, among many others. — more — Bombay Jim Keep Honkin’ — Page 2 —
Leader Jim Porcella, aka “Bombay Jim” grew up in Medford, MA, and started playing drums at the age of fourteen. He went to Berklee with an ear towards becoming a studio drummer, but fate intervened. After graduation, he worked with group that included two vocalists, a la Jackie and Roy. While working "a joint in Lowell, MA, the club owner, who was basically a tough guy, wanted everybody to sing. So I had a choice, to start singing, or he was going to replace me with a drummer who was going to sing." Working six nights a week, Porcella quickly developed vocal proficiency and for many years thereafter, worked as both a drummer, and a self-styled saloon singer. He has released five CDs, performed in jazz and cabaret settings in the Northeast, London, San Francisco and Vancouver, and for six years worked as the featured vocalist at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton.
He decided to put together The Swinging Sapphires (his wife came up with group's name, which is based on his favorite drink, a Bombay Sapphire martini) because of a deep love of Swing music. He’d always loved such masters as Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway, and hoped to put a band together that embodied that same musical excellence. Accordingly, he sought out the finest musicians he knew.
Lead trumpeter Dick Lowell writes most of their charts and his title track, "Keep Honkin," is a "tongue in cheek, playful satire on a really serious subject, road rage," Porcella reports. "We do the tune in way that gives it a little edge and quite frankly, it gets a great reaction when we play it live. People laugh, and I think this kind of response helps to diffuse road rage." Another Porcella favorite is "Voodoo Queen," because "of its really dark side."
In January 2000, Bombay Jim and the Swinging Sapphires, released their debut CD, Not Just Visiting. With Keep Honkin just released, they’re already back in the studio working on their third CD, featuring the title cut “Karma Credit Plan.” The group is planning US and European tours.