Ward Swingle, who founded a vocal group that melded J.S. Bach with bebop rhythm and scat singing, died on Monday in Eastbourne, England. He was 87. The announcement came from the Swingles, successor to the Swingle Singers, many of whose albums were best sellers in the US and Europe in the 1960s. Born in Alabama, Mr. Swingle was an American pianist with classical training who went to Paris for study with pianist Walter Gieseking and became involved in the city’s classical and jazz communities. He joined Mimi Perrin’s Les Double Six, a French group that did vocal recreations of swing and bebop classics. Then with his own Swingle Singers, he expanded the repertoire to include Bach and Mozart, bringing to their compositions jazz feeling and vocal improvisation. In this performance of the Sinfonia movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2, Christiane Legrand is the featured soloist. We see Ward Swingle on the right.
Mr. Swingle’s survivors include his wife of 62 years, violinist Françoise Demorest. For an extensive obituary, go here.
The original version of the post misidentified Ward Swingle in the video. He is, indeed, on the right. Thanks to an alert reader named Bob for the correction.