The content on this site skews towards blues so it’s more than fitting we offer up Swingadelic’s Bluesville. The blues purists will call it jazz. The jazz folks may call it blues. Surely this is a big band that often plays at Swing 46, a dinner/dance venue in NYC’s Broadway theater district for their weekly Monday big band engagement for years. Most of these fourteen tunes are eminently recognizable, some with a large band configuration and others with smaller ensembles. So, don’t argue about whether it’s jazz or blues; virtually all music comes from blues in one way or another. This is designed to make you feel good, maybe even good enough to get up and dance.
There are 21 musicians in the credits and rather than list them, we’ll go the tracks. The album is bookended by Count Basie’s “The Late, Late Show” with the opener featuring vocalist John Bauers and Bryan Davis on the trumpet solo. The closer is instrumental with Bauers on piano and Mike “The Iceberg” Weisberger on tenor. Trombonist/vocalist Neal Pawley arranged willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live,” delivering the vocal with solos from tenorist Bill Easley (Ruth Brown, George Benson, Isaac Hayes, Jimmy McGriff) and organist Kyle Koehler. The full 17-piece band step in for the instrumental “Harlem Nocturne” with altoist Audrey Welber and Boo Reiners on the pedal steel. Bassist Dave Post arranged the Ray Charles favorite, “Mary Ann,” one of the standout tracks, with Bauers on the vocal, Alex Jeun on trombone and guitar by Joe Taino. Vocalist Vanessa Perea honors Ella with Mary Lou Williams” “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory. Weisberger solos on tenor and John Martin steps forward on trumpet.
Mose Allison’s most covered tune, “Parchman Farm” brings aboard Mose disciple, pianist/vocalist Mitch Woods for a great take on this one, also featuring Andy Riedel on guitar and Philly’s own Jimmy Coleman on drums. A set like this would not be complete without a Doc Pomus tune, the oft covered “Lonely Avenue” with Bauers on vocal, John DiSanto on the bari sax (with a sound that makes the tune), and Koehler on organ. “El Blues Esa Mujer” is less familiar, bringing a Danish Latin vibe with guitar form Taino and Trombone from Jeun. Perea then covers Ruth Brown on “I Don’t Know” with Reidel on guitar and Carlos Francis on a muted trumpet, another of the outstanding tracks. Rather obviously “Riff’n of Mcgriff’n” is a showcase for Koehler’s B3 in conversation with Riedel’s guitar as the horns blare away at this growing tempo, another keeper.
“Fool’s Paradise” has been recorded by Mose Allison but this version owed to Charles Brown. Bauer takes the vocal and solos emerge from altoist Ken Robinson and trombonist Rob Edwards. “The Mooche” is one of Duke Ellington’s earliest, circa 1928. Appropriately Robinson solos on clarinet, Reiners on guitar, and Francis on trumpet. “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” was written for Lefty Frizzell, Andy Reidel sings and plays with Pawley on trombone.
Remarkably, this democratic outing had a turn for all the credit except drummer Colby Inzer. This is the way of listening to the blues that many folks grew up with. It’s rare to hear such large ensembles playing these tunes today, so this is refreshing with enough variety and enough parts passed around to keep one highly engaged.
- Jim Hynes