Swinging at The Savoy
"...as tasty a blend of musicianship, chemistry and charm, from start to finish, as I’ve come across in a while. A throwback with a license to thrill… it pops, sizzles and swings! Your ears will thank you."
"...world class musicianship, fabulous repertoire and clear musical camaraderie make this album a total delight to listen to. Vi Wickam has the swing, the class and the panache to pull this off beautifully. "
GRAMMY Award Winner
"...anyone with a pulse will find this recording to be a truly joyful experience. ... Hold on to your hats folks because they’re fixin’ to blow’em off!”
About the Album
From the first tempting tones of Hez on Swinging at the Savoy, you'll be seized by an urge to don my wide-lapel sharkskin suit, doff a broad-brim fedora and lounge around under streetlights tossing half-dollars into the air.
The album - from fiddle duo Vi Wickam & Paul Anastasio - was conceived as a showcase for the extraordinary custom violins made by Idaho luthier Evan Smith. Smith loaned each fiddler one of his custom violins for the album, and both made the most of the opportunity. The sound is delicious.
Paul and Vi first met when Wickam was a teenage fiddling phenom and Anastasio had ended a long stretch playing as Merle Haggard’s fiddler. The two became fast friends, sharing swing jam sessions in Stickerville at the Weiser National Old-Time Fiddle Contest and Festival.
Those Stickerville jam sessions are legendary in the Weiser community. All of the “wild children” of Weiser hang out making music until the wee hours of the morning – sometimes until the sun comes back up.
The National Old Time Fiddle Contest and Festival has been held the 3rd full week of June in Weiser for more than 50 years. But covid-19 cancelled the festival for 2020.
It was at Weiser in 2017 that Paul roped Vi into this project, (quite willingly of course.) Paul and Vi have long been fans of Evan Smith’s violins. But he lives in a small town in rural Idaho where there aren’t many violin buyers.
The three of them – Paul, Vi and Evan - thought the best way to showcase those extraordinary instruments was with a fiddle duo album. And so Swinging at the Savoy was born.
Paul and Vi recorded at the legendary Studio Savoyfaire with Grammy winning engineer, Joel Savoy. They are joined on the album by the lovely voice of Albanie Falletta, one of the Stickerville Stompers. (The Stompers are an impromptu ragtag band that regularly performs on the Weiser stage.) Ben Fox - a hustling New Orleans sideman on just about every instrument you can imagine - rounds out the quartet on upright bass.
As smokin’ hot as the instruments might be – and make no mistake, Wickam and Anastasio are tearing it up on this album – the real star is the music itself.
From the classic depression-era backwoods optimism of Blue Skies to the big city jump-jive jam of Hez, every track on this album is a balm for virus-weary souls. It takes us back to a time before mobile phones, internet, color TV and space launches. Back to the days of speak-easies and moonshine, radios and sawdust on the dance floor.
Swinging at the Savoy is the perfect respite from quarantines, social-distancing, shutdowns and sheltering-in-place.
Listen to Tracks
Hez (2:52) - written by Paul Anastasio
Jazzy - Instrumental
Vi: Paul wrote this great minor swing tune that makes me feel like I'm wearing a fedora and a sport coat, snapping my fingers as I walk down the street.
Paul: Hez is what close friends of Stuff Smith called the inimitable hot violinist.
Blue Skies (3:44) - written by Irving Berlin, 1926
Classic Swing - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: This has long-been one of my favorite tunes of the early swing era. Everything about it is cool from the colorful imagery to the fantastic chords.
Paul: Vi warbles this great Irving Berlin classic as we support him with some of arranger Sy Oliver's counter-lines.
Birthday Dance (feat. Albanie Falletta) (2:32) - written by Albanie Falletta
Upbeat and Fun, Trad. Jazz Styled Original - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: Albanie wrote this swingy romping reminiscence. It will make you smile, and might even bring a tear to your eye.
Paul: Albanie's self-penned lament about her shyness, as we all know she's a retiring wallflower, or perhaps not.
Lady of the Dunes (3:54) - written by Paul Anastasio
Sauntering and Sincere - Instrumental
Vi: Paul channeled the spirit of a western desert when he wrote this tune. You'll smell the sage brush, and feel the warm wind blow as you bask in this melody.
Paul: In the "cry in your beer" country weeper tradition, I designed it to bring a tear to a glass eye.
Sister Kate (feat. Albanie Falletta) (2:36) - written by Armand J. Piron, 1922
Cheeky and Amusing - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: I smiled when I first heard this cheeky trad jazz gem at a Weiser jam session, and I think you will too.
Paul: As revealed by Albanie, it seems that sibling rivalry comes down to who has the best shimmy.
St. James Infirmary Blues (5:08) - American traditional
Minor Mournful Blues - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: Close your eyes and soak in the sorrow of a gambler's lost love as you sit in a 1925 New Orleans speakeasy.
Paul: Vi sings a really sad saga, as the lady in question is "undeniably and reliably dead."
My Melancholy Baby (feat. Albanie Falletta) (3:26) - written by Ernie Burnett & George A. Norton, 1912
Sweet and Uplifting - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: Smile my honey dear, this song will drive away your blues!
Paul: Supposedly this tune is the one most requested by drunks who slur their words but have good taste.
Weiser Stomp (3:08) - written by Paul Anastasio
Intricately Arranged String Swing - Instrumental
Vi: Paul melds the virtuosity of a weiser swing jam with the tight orchestration of a classic swing band in this high energy hop. WARNING: You may find yourself unconsciously tapping your feet to it days later.
Paul: Not the theme song of the Weiser, Idaho National Old-Time Fiddlers' Contest, but I wish it was.
By the Light of the Silvery Moon (feat. Albanie Falletta) (3:25) - written by Gus Edwards & Edward Madden, 1909
Flirty and Lighthearted - Vocal Duet | Lyrics
Vi: This song always makes me happy. It's sweet, fun, and a little bit silly, a perfect antidote to the melancholy of today.
Paul: Albanie sings of spooning, which never seems to go out of style, especially in the moonlight.
Maddie's Waltz (4:00) - written by Vi Wickam, 2007
Merry and Genteel Waltz - Instrumental
Vi: This melody was inspired by the birth of a lovely young lady. I imagine dancing a waltz at an 19th century ball in Vienna.
Paul: A heartfelt, romantic Vi original for people with three feet.
I'm Writing a New Song (feat. Albanie Falletta) (3:11) - written by Albanie Falletta
Whistful into Powerful Swing - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: Don't stay stuck in the past. We have the power of the choices we make, and there is no greater power!
Paul: From the quill pen of Albanie, and you can almost see the ink blots on the manuscript.
Darling Nelly Gray (3:59) - written by Benjamin Hanby, 1856
Pining and Beautifully Smooth - Instrumental
Vi: This Civil War Song told the story of a slave whose love was sold, and he may never see her again. This melody was later borrowed by Bob Wills and given new lyrics also talking about lost love.
Paul: This may be where Bob Wills got the melody for his immortal Faded Love, but we'll never know.
Nobody Saw That Coming (feat. Albanie Falletta) (3:47) - written by Albanie Falletta
Unexpected & Bittersweet Original - Vocal | Lyrics
Vi: This Albanie original tells us about the unexpected twists and turns that love can take.
Paul: Albanie's tune lamenting the well-known vicissitudes of romance.
Louisiana Ruckus (2:37) - written by Vi Wickam, 2018
Upbeat Original Fiddle Tune - Instrumental
Vi: It's the only fiddle tune on this album, and it's not too fast. It's little bit swampy, and a little bit groovy.
Paul: We tried to raise a ruckus, and maybe did, with this nice fiddle-istic ditty from Vi.
“Swinging at the Savoy” by Vi Wickam and Paul Anastasio is as tasty a blend of musicianship, chemistry and charm, from start to finish, as I’ve come across in a while. A throwback with a license to thrill… it pops, sizzles and swings! Your ears will thank you."
"The elegance of simple production with world class musicianship, fabulous repertoire and clear musical camaraderie make this album a total delight to listen to. Vi Wickam has the swing, the class and the panache to pull this off beautifully. "
GRAMMY Award Winner
"Delightfully captivating fiddle and vocal melodies over soulful swing rhythms that will put a grin on your face and a bounce in your step. Ranging from tender to feisty, ‘Swinging at The Savoy’ is a joyous blend of fire and finesse."
Award Winning Music Educator
Vi and Paul are two truly great musicians who impart their love of swing music on everything they touch. I think anyone with a pulse will find this recording to be a truly joyful experience. Having worked with Vi on a project, I can tell you he always has a trick or two up his sleeve and Paul is certain to have more than a few tricks to match as the two join forces on this momentous album. To quote an announcer at a fiddle contest held long ago - “Hold on to your hats folks because they’re fixin’ to blow’em off!”
Produced by: Vi Wickam
Recorded at: Studio SavoyFaire
Recording/Mixing Engineer: Joel Savoy
Mastering Engineer: David Glasser, Airshow Mastering
Original Art and Album Design: Christina Gressianu
Copyrights 2020: Vi Wickam (BMI), Paul Anastasio
Administered by: Wickam Music (WM CD2001)
Vi Wickam: Violin, Octave Violin, Vocals (2, 6, 9)
Paul Anastasio: Violin, Octave Violin
Albanie Falletta: Guitar, Vocals
Ben Fox: Bass
Birthday Dance, I’m Writing a New Song, Nobody Saw That Comin’ – Copyright © Albanie Falletta
Hez, Lady of the Dunes, Weiser Stomp – Copyright © Paul Anastasio
Maddie’s Waltz, Louisiana Ruckus – Copyright © Vi Wickam
Blue Skies – Irving Berlin 1926
All Others – Traditional/Public Domain
Born at an early age in a little log cabin he built with his own hands, Paul Anastasio began studying the violin at the age of nine. A few years later, while continuing to study classical violin, he began to explore the worlds of bluegrass, Texas-style fiddling, western swing, and swing.
By 1976 he was studying with jazz violin pioneer Joe Venuti and playing with Merle Haggard as a member of Merle's band, The Strangers. After six months with Merle, he joined Asleep at the Wheel, where he played their eclectic mix of western swing, jump blues, cry-in-your-beer country and swing for close to four years.
Paul then headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked for three years with Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers and two years with Loretta Lynn. While in Nashville he backed everyone from Tiny Tim to Henry Mancini.
Escaping from Nashville in 1992, he returned to his native Washington State. Finding that he couldn't lose enough money playing gigs, he started his own recording company, Swing Cat Enterprises.
Paul has spent much of the past ten years studying the exquisite folk violin music of the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacán. He has also been teaching at music camps, where he has been much in demand in recent years, and he writes a regular column, entitled "On Improvisation," for Fiddler Magazine.
Vi "The Fiddler" Wickam
From bluegrass and jazz to rock & roll and old-time fiddle, Vi the Fiddler exudes energy, passion, humor, and musical mastery in every performance.
Vi Wickam is an accomplished solo performer and also fronts his own band, cleverly named Vi Wickam and The Band. In addition, he’s a member of The Whiskey Chickens, Fritto Misto, and Fiddle Whamdiddle. The latter’s albums Old School Old Time and Not My Monkey were honored by inclusion on the Grammy Ballot in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
In 2018, Vi had 2 albums chart in the top 5 of Folk DJ Radio. His album Armadillo on a Hot Tin Roof hit #4 in April and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas hit #5 in December.
He’s a 4-time Colorado State Fiddling Champion, a finalist at the Grand Masters’ Fiddler Championship, and Runner Up in the National Fiddle Contest.
In addition to performing, Vi is a highly regarded music instructor. He’s a founder of the online music school myTalentForge.com, and is much in demand as a teacher at music workshops and camps around the US.
A native of Monroe, Louisiana, Albanie was in her formative years exposed to the local music of Louisiana: the sounds of cajun, zydeco, blues and gospel musics at festivals and backyard parties.
In the summer of 2013 Albanie relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she is currently living and performing solo, and with various traditional jazz and swing ensembles. Shortly after moving to New Orleans, Falletta began making trips back to Austin to study early acoustic fingerstyle blues with Steve James, and to continue performing with Guy Forsyth, Thrift Set Orchestra, and the Fellas. She now performs mainly in and around the crescent city, and tours as a solo act, performing New Orleans traditional tunes, acoustic blues, ragtime, and original songs.
Bassist Ben Fox grew up in Palo Alto, California, where he played music and did lots of theater teach, as well as built robots. He moved to Los Angeles for a little while, and then to New York, where he went to college at The New School. Ben majored in social unrest and auto didacticism. Some common themes in his life have been: coffee, fire, early morning trips to far away places, and a lust for brass instruments. Ben plays full time in New Orleans as a multi-instrumentalist.