Crooner Todd Londagin Channels Purist Oldschool Style on His New Album
Todd Londagin plays the small room at Rockwood Music Hall Monday night, January 6 at midnight with his band. Who the hell goes out on a Monday night at midnight ? Professionals. That’s how it used to be, anyway, before the permanent-tourist class took over the Lower East Side. So whatever the crowd turns out to be, you can count on the tapdancing trombonist/crooner to school them with a vastly more entertaining, amusingly refined set than this neighborhood typically sees in these grimly gentrified days.
Londagin also has a new album out, titled Look Out for Love. How does his very visual, very audience-interactive m.o. translate in the studio? Does his buttermilk tenor still come across as deviously as it does when you can see the gleam in his eye? It would seem so. The album is a quintet session with Matt Ray on piano, Pete Smith on guitar, Jennifer Vincent on bass and David Berger on drums, Londagin accentuating vocals rather than his nonchalantly excellent trombone work. Songwise, other than the fantastic opening and closing cuts – the latter a signature Londagin set piece – there’s nothing unexpected. He and the band keep things short and sweet, with a nod to the material’s 78 RPM origins and Londagin’s tenure as one of the original hot jazz rejuvenators in the Flying Neutrinos.
The stride piano-infused title track has Londagin playing up the clever wordplay for all it’s worth: “Stay close to the bank/That river is flowing right into a tank….you’re liable to amble right into a noose.” After a brief guitar break, it’s over in barely two minutes. Then they give Bye Bye Baby a matter-of-fact swing with incisive cameos from the whole band. Londagin opens his briskly shuffling take of Some of These Days with a squirrelly muted solo trombone solo, then works the corners of the vocal line with blue notes, Smith adding droll chicken-scratch voicings, Ray delivering a scrambling ragtime-tinged solo.
Brazil gets a wonderfully precise guitar-and-voice first verse, droll latin mimimalisms from the piano and clear-eyed vocal harmonies from Cocktail Angst frontwoman Toby Williams over Berger’s careful yet carefree brushwork. I Can’t Help It also gets an understatedly Brazilian-inflected treatment, while Londagin’s calm delivery makes a striking contrast with Ray’s unaffectedly haunting glimmer on I Concentrate on You.
Long Ago and Far Away is Londagin at top of his game both as smooth crooner and genially bluesy trombonist, a vibe he maintains on a suavely jaunty take of Pennies from Heaven. The warm, wine-buzzed wee hours version of You Go to My Head is the slowest thing here; the album ends with Londagin’s big crowd-pleaser Bust the Windows, one of the most casual revenge songs ever written. Interestingly, this version doesn’t have the funk or the boisterousness that he often imbues it with onstage – it has the suspicious feel of a pop parody, Londagin delivering the punchline with the same deadpan verve as the guy knocking out the glass from his deceitful girlfriend’s car.
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