Arguably one of the more niche types of jazz – and one that doesn’t fit neatly into the genre’s timeline – Electro Swing nonetheless highlights jazz’s sensibility for borrowing from other musical styles. In this guide, we find out more…
Also known as “swing house”, electro swing is a genre of music that developed in the 1990s, originating from both Europe and the United States.
Predominantly a form of electronic dance music, the resulting sound is a hybrid of different styles and genres that incorporate 1920s and 30s swing with vintage jazz and hip hop.
It’s generally a mixture of real time musicians playing jazz instruments (trumpet, trombone, saxophone…) along with vocals and a DJ.
The music is heavily produced and mixed with a back beat and strong rhythmic feel, aimed at dancing.
As well as original songs, the various sub-genres that make up electro swing often borrow and rearrange familiar songs from the past, recasting them in quite radical arrangements that can be deceptively catchy.
The beat is usually repetitive which makes it ideal for dancing to, but has little in terms of rhythmically variation that separates jazz from many other forms of music.
Some of the most well known exponents of electro swing include Betty Booom, Parov Stelar, Yolanda Be Cool, Caravan Palace, Tape Five and Boogie Belgique.
Electro Swing Song – Listening Tips
As is often the case, the best way to understand a specific style is not to just read about it, but to listen!
So stay tuned for our pick of some of the most popular Electro Swing songs to discover.
And, as serious jazz fans will no doubt notice, check out just how often classic jazz songs are used in these.
It Don’t Mean A Thing (Electro Swing Mix) – The Hebbe Sisters, Wolfgang Lohr
The Hebbe Sisters – three real sisters from Sweden who come from a musical background – feature on this track which is probably the closest thing to the original swing style among our selection.
Strong vocal harmonies and arrangement with the original melody and lyrics prominently featured. You really do get the impression that these sisters can really swing!
Hit The Road Jack – Betty Booom, Dorade, Maskarade
From Cape Town, South Africa, Betty Booom is a DJ and producer who passion for music came from listening to her father’s record collection that included swing, jazz disco and soul music.
A song made popular in the 1930s by Nat King Cole among others, the song is treated very differently by Betty Booom and her partners. The club mix is very heavily beat laden with a thudding drum machine introduction that recurs throughout, while the Tech House Mix places the emphasis at times more on the vocals, and in one section does actually swing.
Big Blue Swing & You Rascal You – Tape Five
Founded in 2003 by record producer and singer/songwriter Martin Strathausen, Tape Five is a German based outfit that features music from genres including swing, dub, electro swing and jazz. The track features some vibrant clarinet playing and a powerful tenor sax solo.
We couldn’t resist sneaking in another from Tape Five, this time with Ashley Slater the UK trombonist and singer.
Slater is best known in jazz circles for his association with the iconic big band Loose Tubes, and the big bands of George Russell and Carla Bley. ‘You Rascal You’ has a strong jazz swing feel and a lyric that is typical of the 1920s.
There are also a couple of nice solos too, especially from the clarinettist.
St. Louis Blues – The Swing Bot
Whilst it’s just about as far away from Louis Armstrong playing ‘St. Louis Blues’ as it’s possible to get, this cut does feature a smooth, jazz-infused alto saxophone solo.
It’s a mixture of French House and Electro Swing put together by a French producer, live performer and DJ based in Vienna aka The Swing Bot.
Cheek To Cheek (Swing Hop Mix)– Odd Chap, Marty and his Rockin’ Comets
This one is performed and produced by Odd Chap from New Zealand, along with and Marty and his Rockin’ Comets. Inspired by rock ‘n’ roll, jump jive and Louis Prima, this leans more to the acoustic side of the genre with the emphasis on the vocals and acoustic instruments – albeit with a drum machine and rather static beat.
Gringo’s Revenge – Parov Stelar
Making his first appearances as a DJ in the 1990s, Marcus Füreder (aka Parov Stelar) became involved in producing music in 2000.
He has worked with Lady Gaga and Bryan Ferry and is a multi-award-winning artist in his own right, releasing twenty albums and countless singles and EPs.
‘Gringo’s Revenge’ is powerful multi-genre offering with a plangent and plaintive opening trumpet that would not sound of place in many a contemporary jazz setting.
Followed by a club beat, overdubbed vocals and a swirling electronic backwash it is quite hypnotic with hints of 1920s and 1930s swing cleverly disguised yet clearly discernible throughout.
War Makes The Angels Cry – Fear In The Dark
With the advent of the internet and readily available online programmes for editing music, many amateur producers and DJs are now able to create and promote their own tunes.
Once such artist is Fear In The Dark, a Welsh DJ and producer now residing in Lancashire, and who works in the genres of Drum & Bass, Breakbeat and Electro Swing.
Influenced by Parov Stelar, Freestlyers and [email protected] in the [email protected], he draws on a contemporary hard-edged sound that look at the topical events of today, as evidenced in the recommended track ‘War Makes Angels Cry’ with its stark synthesized backdrop and bluntly delivered narration.
Information about the artist is elusive as he is not prolific on social media, but as he says, “you could and may have bumped into me at festivals in the UK”.
Dramophone – Caravan Palace
A French electronic band formed when commissioned to write the soundtrack for a silent adult film, Caravan Palace soon expanded from the initial three-piece group and began performing and recording in earnest. Their debut album sold more than 150,000 copies.
The three founding members of Caravan Palace, violinist Payen, guitarist Vial and bassist Charles Delaporte all began as jazz musicians but were also interested in incorporating other styles and genres into their music. The sound is greatly indebted to those of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s jazz scenes, and indeed swings hard in this idiom, with some interplay between clarinet and muted trumpet and the vocalists.
Thanks for reading!
Looking for more niche music? Check out our timeline to the different styles of jazz across the last century, or dive directly into our guides to Acid Jazz and iconic Pop Saxophone solos.