A Handful of Keys, a musical tribute to Thomas Fats Waller, is Carl Coles testimonial to a legend in jazz. Wallers music remains an essential part of African-Americas creation of one of the few genres unique to this country. Coles musical direction and accomplished accompaniment for NATs production of the classic, Aint Misbehavin, gave him the opportunity to showcase his talent. Swain choreographed the show, and their close relationship began. During the past year, a professional association has developed, and they are currently working on a CD with Cole as musical director and Swain singing the songs that have become a trademark of his performances.
Growing up in Chicago, Swain, inspired by his teachers, received further instruction at the South Side Community Center, founded by Margaret Burroughs, where many of the finest artists in the African-American community had their beginnings. His long career on stage includes, choreographer/lead dancer in the Club Delisa in Chicago, the Count Basie Show at the Regal Theatre, and as a part of the famed Co Op Trio touring the country with Duke Ellington. He later founded the Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre, giving a host of young dancers their first opportunity to perform.
He became a familiar performer at the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre in the early 80s, singing the songs of Fats Waller in Aint Misbehavin and continued to star until its recent closing. Wallers music has become a permanent part of his repertoire, and with Carl Cole playing as if he were Waller reincarnated, they offer audiences magic with Ill Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, Your Feets Too Big, and Aint Misbehavin.
Performing with Cole at the Jazz Societys tribute to National Black History Month, Swain re-acquainted the audience with the music of Waller, Ellington, and Nat King Cole. Invited to perform with Carl Cole at the Mendelssohn Club on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m., Swain looks forward to again singing the songs so identified with his work.