Liner notes -- Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle
fact behind Richard Olsen, leader of San Francisco's suavest, swingingest
Big Band, is that he first entered the music scene as a founding
member of the original San Francisco hip rock band, the Charlatans.
Although the legendary band was never known far beyond the provincial
confines of the Avalon and Fillmore ballroom scenes, Olsen, in the
band's regulation Edwardian finery (straw hats, spats, etc.) belonged
to the first generation of the same tribe that also included the
Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service,
and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
But jazz was always one of his first loves, just as the clarinet
was one of his first instruments, so his emergence as a kind of
nouveau Bobby Darin, leaning into those cool, relaxed vocals, in
front of rippling brass and throbbing rhythm section, is hardly
the unqualified left-field move it might seem for people who only
know Olsen for his connection with the Charlatans.
Over the past couple of years, today's cool youth gather at spots
like Haight Street's Club DeLuxe--ironically mere blocks from where
Olsen and George Hunter first put together the Charlatans--or the
30's Art Deco elegance of Bimbo's 365 Club in North Beach, to dress
up in vintage finery and dance the night away; jitterbug-style,
to the retro-swing of the Richard Olsen Big Band and other jump-minded
Through all the changes, Richard Olsen has stayed with his profession,
a working musician who has done it all--from the psychedelic ballroom
of the '60's, to tap dancing on Union Square (a bit of business
that survives in his act--and this CD--to this day). As he gravitated
toward building steady work as a dance band leader, he tripped across
the burgeoning cultural movement, the young and hip swing kids grooving
to the sassy, brassy sounds of Sinatra, Darin, Louis Prima, Louis
Jordan and all the others.
Poised with a blasting book of bright, rippling charts and sturdy
songs, all finger- snapping good, Olsen found the sound--a sensational
big band beat that has all today's San Francisco hipsters digging
it the most.