The self-described 'little big band' Swingadelic was formed in 1998 during the neo-swing movement was cresting when bassist Dave Post gathered his jazz & blues playing friends together to play engagements at various New York City venues, and when the swing scene waned the band stayed active playing swing dance groups, concerts, festivals, schools and private engagements and today plays 100 dates a year. This new album is a tribute to the legendary songwriter Johnny Mercer. Previously Swingadelic has recorded tributes to Duke Pearson and Allen Toussaint.
Pianist and vocalist Johnny Bauers traces the origin of the present recording to the work he did for a Mercer show during the 2009 centenary of him. Subsequently he brought this concept to Swingadelic's Dave Post, and enlisted Vanessa Perea, the sublime vocalist featured on this recording and we started doing shows all over the New York area. During these shows, they told the story of Johnny’s life and the stories of his songs, striking a chord with our audiences. According to Bauers, "[t]his CD is an attempt to recreate some of that magic we feel when we go onstage and perform this great music."
As my first exposure to Swingadelic, I was surprised and impressed by the band's solid musicianship and the focused performances of such familiar numbers as "Too Marvelous For Words," "Blues in the Night," "That Old Black Magic," "I Wanna Be Around," "Jeepers Creepers," "Moon River/The Days of Wine and Roses," "G.I. Jive," and "One For The Road." This set kicks off with "Too Marvelous For Words," where the band punchy, brassy playing grabs the listener. Johnny Bauers is a decent singer, but vocally the star here is Vanessa Perea whose timing, intonation and relaxed phrasing shines. He does shine in a Louis Prima manner with his growl on "That Old Black Magic," and does a credible job crooning on the Tony Bennett hit, "I Wanna Be Around."
The medley of two songs co-written with Henry Mancini, ""Moon River/The Days of Wine and Roses," opens with Panea's lovely, wistful treatment of the former number before Bauer's crooning of the latter number, but he cannot convey the humor present on Louis Jordan's hit on "G.I. Jive." Paul McCartney wanted to collaborate with Mercer in the 1970s but health issues prevented this from happening. The performance of "P.S I Love You" is a fascinating mash-up of the Beatles song with a Gordon Jenkins-Mercer collaboration of the same name.
A serviceable singer, Bauers' piano and his arrangements are first-rate and help account for the splendid playing throughout this recording. Also, there are a number of notable solos including those of guitarist George Naha on "Acc Cent Chu Ate the Positive" and "Blues in the Night," while John Disanto's baritone establishes the feel on "That Old Black Magic." Robert Edwards trombone enlivens "I Wanna Be Around" while Audrey Welber's clarinet is featured on "Goody Goody," and Michael Weisberger ably reprises Louis Jordan's alto sax solo on "G.I. Jive."
Dancers and listeners will find much to enjoy in this lively, appealing recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Swingadelic perform a song that will be familiar from Bobby Darin.