1929. A midwestern winter where the winds off Lake Michigan are as treacherous as Aligheri’s description of Hell’s ninth circle. Light yellow, nicotine-stained walls in an inconspicuous blind pig in Southside Chicago are serenaded by the melancholic croons of a young, coiffed brunette chanteuse adorning a single-shoulder strapped, jade-colored nightgown while her age-varied backing band, donning cheap, loose, black tuxedos, debuts a down-tempo jazz-blues number.
It’s week three of the traveling quintet’s monthly residency, with the first two weeks drawing elbow-jarring, capacity crowds. With tonight’s stinging winds having the jarring effect on flesh like a bundle of sewing needles shot close range into your fingertips, some of the booze-hounds and regular nightcrawlers keep at bay. This body drop is noticeable, given how bare the room looks. Save for two couples adjoining tables in front of the stage, while in the back, the few grizzled professionals and young barflies converse among each other, sulk in their soon-to-become-reality financial worries, or vie for the overworked bartender’s attention for a nightcap bathtub-gin cocktail to choke down in a last-ditch effort to get as tanked as the economy.
Near the exit, the bar manager watches this pathetic night fold out, leaning towards using a percentage of the band’s payout towards the cops he’s paying off weekly to keep this place operational.
The above summarizes the specialty of multi-instrumentalist Pierre Omer, a continuous ability over nearly three decades to illustrate timepiece scenery from the depths of his catalog and what’s yet to transcribe from head to hand. With the funeral blues unit he co-founded, The Dead Brothers, Omer’s roots-embedded guitar work mixed with the band’s heavy brass conjures images of charcoal pastel scenery illustrations of a plague doctor’s POV in treating bubonic victims of a rapidly depleting gypsy caravan nestled in the Carpathian mountains. The music of Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue illustrates the throwback scenario mentioned above with its blend of Prohibition-era jazz and swing laced with bits of modern exotica and garage rock.
In 2016, the Swiss quartet broke out with 2016’s Swing Cremona and, seven years later, with some new heads in play, issues their follow-up with Tropical Breakdown, slated to come out in late October via Voodoo Rhythm Records.
After seven years and a single release between The Swing Revue’s debut, Omer’s thoughts are below regarding the direction he wanted Tropical Depression to follow from the debut LP.
“My first thought was: I love that band, and I love swing, but I don’t see myself playing that same music for another five years.”
“So it took me a few years to find a way to keep that swing DNA but bring it somewhere else. At some point, we tried mixing swing and reggae, and Julien (Israelian), the drummer, was a big fan of Jamaïcain music. But this didn’t go very far. Ultimately, ‘Tropical Breakdown’ explores different directions around the swing center. One predominant direction is the film noir soundtrack with songs like ‘Tropical Breakdown,’ ‘It Doesn’t Sound (the Way It Should),’ ‘Zanzibar,’ and our cover of the ’80’s French synth-pop hit ‘L’amour à la plage.’
“Songwriting is one thing, but what made things clear for this new album was when our new keyboardist stepped in. It gave me a lot of arrangement ideas. I had the intuition to replace our former bass player with a keyboard, but I didn’t expect it would be that inspiring. But Geraldine (Schenkel), our keyboard player, has a lot of tricks. She plays her Fender Rhodes and Clavinet through fuzz boxes and wha pedals, and those sounds opened many windows in our little swing world.”
As mentioned above, returning to the swing fold alongside Omer are Julian Israelian (drums/percussion) and Christoph Ganterr (trumpet), with the new addition of Geraldine Schenkel on both keys and the bandoneon, because what would a modern swing-jazz-trash group be without the Argentinian tango?