It don't mean a thing

Swingster and Fort Worth homeboy Red Young comes back home

Although the current lounge revival seems to be everywhere--one half-expects to see squirrels wearing tiny smoking jackets and clutching wee martini glasses as they dart about burying their nuts for the winter--keyboardist and Fort Worth native Red Young remembers when popular appreciation for the sophisticated, swing-oriented music of the '40s was in its infancy.

As a matter of fact, he helped midwife its rebirth when he served as a vocalist and arranger for Linda Ronstadt and toured with her in the early '80s during her What's New/Lush Life collaboration with big-band leader Nelson Riddle. "That was when I first turned on to '40s music," Young recalls. Before that he was a show-biz pro, working with such acts as Dixieland trumpeter Clyde McCoy (who had a hit in 1927 with "Sugar Blues") and Sonny and Cher. Young toured with Ronstadt as the leader of a four-part vocal group that lent her show a requisite Andrews Sisters-Ink Spots vocal precision; during the part of the show that featured the group, Ronstadt came to call the singers the Red Hots, and Young had his concept.

After a 1984 tour with Ronstadt, Young felt it was "time to woodshed," and returned to Fort Worth (he had relocated to Los Angeles in '77) to work on his chops and hone the Red and the Red Hots concept; the group played shows and private parties throughout the Texas-Oklahoma-Louisiana area until 1988, when Young signed on with Juice Newton and again moved to Los Angeles. He also continued with the Red Hots, who enjoyed more and more success as Los Angeles began to increase its appreciation of vintage swing. "People have gone back to the original stuff," Young reports, clearly pleased. "The younger people, who are really behind the whole revival, know how to dance to it now, and they love it."

Young--who, in addition to swinging has worked with artists such as Freddy Fender, Noel Redding, and Kinky Friedman--also composes. "I'm one of a handful of people writing original music that sounds like the old stuff," he says.

He has been busy of late. In addition to working on Red and the Red Hots' third album, Young appears on a track on Joey Altruda's cocktail-nation fave Cocktails With Joey and plays with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on four tracks from the Swingers soundtrack for which Young did the horn arrangements. His ability to inject new life into standards such as Count Basie's "Jumpin' at the Woodside"--and to deliver originals with the same feel--makes his joining old pal Johnny Reno at the Red Jacket Thursday, November 21, a stimulating proposition no matter how trendy you consider yourself.

Beledi Ensemble resurfaces
Reconfigured after an almost yearlong hiatus, one of Dallas' premiere improvisational groups, the Beledi Ensemble, is coming up for air November 22 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary (the MAC). Perhaps most firmly (or at least most recently) affixed in local memory as a trio--percussionist Jamal Mohamed, his brother, Buddy, on bass, and Reggie Rueffer on violin--the Beledi Ensemble has been in existence since 1977 and has varied in size from a trio to what Jamal remembers as a collection of "somewhere around" 10 players, including magicians, jugglers, and dancers. The trio played semiregular gigs Wednesday nights at the Cosmic Cup a couple of years ago as simply Beledi, but gradually its performances grew more and more sporadic, and when Rueffer wandered off to start Spot, things pretty much ceased.

The group--now consisting of Jamal and Buddy reprising their old roles and joined by Joe Lee on guitar, and founding member Ken Grimes, D'Drum's Ed Smith on percussion, and with Tina Curran dancing--has always been a "when we can" proposition, but Jamal would like to see the group perform more than once a year. "The problem is that we're all professional musicians, and it's so hard to get schedules to work out," he says. "If it goes smoothly, we'll see; right now, the important thing is to have fun and play good music."

Jamal has been particularly busy this year. During the summer, he spent a week teaching drumming and dance accompaniment in residency at the International Dance Festival in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and performed a mix of Spanish flamenco and Middle Eastern music with guitarist Miguel Antonio. More recently he went to South Korea, where he performed the play Starpath with the avant-garde Omaha Magic Theater at the Suwon Castle International Theater Festival; Jamal composed and scored the music for Starpath, which debuted at the Dallas Children's Theater. Look for some new gongs in his array of percussion instruments.

Remaining among few undiscovered gems (and values) in town, weekend nights at the MAC offer reasonably priced yet unconventional entertainment in an artistic setting, and yes, you can get beer and wine there. If you like improvisational music--a bunch of artists each watching the others, taking their leads from the cues of the group, and creating a new thing rather than reciting an old--or just want to impress your date with your sophistication, the MAC seems a cinch. "They take a lot of chances," Jamal says, "and they deserve support."

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