Voices of Swing at Cadogan Hall, London

The Down For The Count big band combined with the City String Ensemble to evoke the sound Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole made in the Capitol studios in the 1950s

The Down For The Count Concert Orchestra in Voices of Swing

My first impulse on leaving Cadogan Hall in the wake of a standing ovation on Sunday evening was to ask permission to lay 10 stars on this outstanding gig rather than the usual five. But having negotiated the vehicular traffic between Sloane Square and my home in the suburbs I reflected that five stars represents the absolute peak and cannot be eclipsed.

Voices Of Swing is a temporary rebranding of Down For The Count, the swing outfit founded by Mike Paul-Smith some 16 years ago and now augmented by the City Strings and paying tribute (his centenary has just passed) to the arrangements of Nelson Riddle.

None of the 30 musicians and vocalists on stage has reached more than the early 30s and are happy to spend their days rehearsing and evenings performing the music of the 1940s and 50s and doing so to the highest standards.

Starting as they meant to go on they kicked off with Riddle’s very first arrangement for Sinatra at Capitol, I’ve Got The World On A String, in which they did their damnest to blow the roof off Cadogan Hall. Vocalist Callum Gilles was lumbered with the daunting task of emulating numbers associated with Sinatra and Nat Cole.

In total they performed some 25 numbers only one of which, Imagination, was an instrumental and it was great to see that the person getting the greatest belt out of the evening was conductor Mike Paul-Smith, rightly basking in the great outfit he put together and nurtured lovingly.

Great number followed great number – S’Wonderful, The Nearness Of You, The Folks Who Live On The Hill, Mona Lisa, I’ve Got You Under My Skin – with nary a clinker amongst the lot. Regular girl vocalists Katie Birtill and Hannah Castleman have now been joined by Lydia Bell, who may just shade the other two.

A standout evening came to a standout close with everyone wailing their lungs out on That’s Life, in which Mike weighed in on a keyboard adjacent to his podium. A truly memorable evening.

Voices In Swing: Cadogan Hall, Sloane Terrace, Chelsea, 6 June 2021