Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Swingadelic Reinvents and Revisits Allen Toussaint Classics

Swingadelic‘s latest album, Toussaintville mines the Allen Toussaint catalog with verve, imagination and some absolutely delicious horn charts. It has most of the expected tunes (but thankfully no Mother in Law) and ends with a homage to the iconic New Orleans tunesmith. The big band’s charts are purist without being deferential, underscoring how vivid and also deceptively counterintuitive Toussaint’s songwriting has been for so long. One would think he’d enjoy this album immensely.

The opening track, Night People, sets the stage; like most of the others here, it’s a horn tune rather than a piano tune, in this case with a funky late 60s vibe, like the Crusaders back when they actually were the Jazz Crusaders. This song’s about a pickup scene, and this version captures that energy, low and cool but slinky all the same (the presence of bandleader Dave Post’s bass rather than bass guitar enhances that).

Toussaint plays Southern Nights Toussaint as a nocturne, and Swingadelic’s version succeeds at ramping up the energy, as you would expect from a large ensemble, while maintaining the original’s balmy atmospherics. The band also stays true to Toussaint by playing What Do You Want the Girl to Do as a stroll, with a neatly crescendoing arrangement and a tasty, opaque-toned Audrey Welber alto solo, and doing Sneaking Sally Through the Alley as a matter-of-fact backbeat swing tune. And Yes We Can Can gets a funky sway, but it doesn’t go over the top; instead, the band works devious tempo shifts and solos from bright alto, bluesy trombone and rather ambiguous soprano sax from Paul Carlon.

The biting On Your Way Down gets a scaled-down treatment to let the edge of the lyrics sink in, with simmering solos for slide guitar and lowdown tenor sax. The soul ballad Ruler of My Heart, sung by Queen Esther, is done more as a seduction than an entreaty. Conversely, they eschew buffoonery for righteous anger in the understatedly funky Get Out of My Life Woman, with its burnished brass and lively riffage making its way around the ensemble.

The band brings a lively go-go bounce to Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky, spicing it up with John Bauers’ roto organ, train-whistle harmonies and jaunty volleys of call-and-response. They do much the same with Fair Child, taking it way up and then way down until Boo Reiners’ slide guitar break brings it back. Arguably, the most interesting yet traditionalist arrangement here is the one on Working in a Coal Mine, which pulses along on drummer Jason Pharr’s syncopated clave: they make it clear that this one’s about a guy who’s all worn out from a tough job!

There are also a couple of ragtime-flavored tunes: Java, with an intricate arrangement that sends pieces of the theme spinning through the ensemble, and Whipped Cream, a shuffling second-line theme capped with an ecstatic Carlon soprano solo. There’s also the pulsing, bucolic waltz Up the Creek, with Bauers’ nostalgic but purposeful ragtime piano plus dixieland-flavored clarinet and trombone that begins very droll and then straightens out. Beyond the fact that Toussaint’s songs can be so ridiculously fun to play, there’s an awful lot to like here: charts that tease the imagination and inspired playing from an eclectic cast of characters including but not limited to Jeff Hackworth on tenor and baritone sax, John DiSanto on baritone sax, Albert Leusink and Carlos Francis on trumpets, Rob Susman, Rob Edwards and Neal Pawley on trombones, Boo Reiners on guitar, and also Jimmy Coleman also on drums.

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December 19, 2013 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Allen Toussaint at Metrotech Park, Brooklyn NY 6/11/09

At age 70, Allen Toussaint is entitled to do whatever he wants. For his early 60s work as a New Orleans soul/pop producer, pianist and songwriter for Lee Dorsey and scores of others, he belongs in whatever hall of fame is big enough for someone of his stature (forget that stupid place in Cleveland who just inducted Journey and New Kids on the Block – or if they haven’t, someday they assuredly will). Despite grey skies and a very welcome chill in the air, Toussaint proved he still has his groove. And proof that good things sometimes actually come to those who wait: cover and drinks at his recent stand at the Village Vanguard with a dubious cast including Marc Ribot and Don Byron could have set you back something in the neighborhood of fifty bucks, while this show was free. With a five-piece band – guitar, rhythm section, percussionist and tenor sax – perfectly tasteful and in the pocket, Toussaint mixed familiar oldies radio standards, classic R&B, and a little funk along with a couple of lite FM hits.

Right off the bat, his chops were in full force. Toussaint isn’t flashy, never was – like many songwriters from his genre and his era, he doesn’t waste notes getting to the point, with a warmly chordal, staccato, even percussive attack. Nor is he a flashy singer, which was especially noticeable as the sound engineer fiddled with his vocals in the mix, but did a capable job nonetheless. He played the old stuff first: There’s a Party Going On, Here Comes the Girl and a long, tasty, fluidly soulful version of the minor-key We Got Love, which he wrote for Dorsey well over forty years ago. Then he did a medley including A Certain Girl, Mother-in-Law, Fortune Teller and Working in a Coal Mine. The Pointer Sisters’ hit Yes We Can Can was reinvented and vastly improved as yet another soul/funk number, as was another unfamiliar tune (at least to anyone who knows nothing about lite FM) apparently made famous by Bonnie Raitt.

Toussaint messed around, jazzing up some Grieg and Chopin before bringing back the groove with Get Out of My Life Woman (his most-covered song, he said, 35 times). Everything I Do Is Gonna Be Funky featured an impressively multistylistic guitar solo (his axeman had great chops, all too apparent on an ill-advised metal excursion during one of the early numbers). After over an hour and casual, warm takes of the oldschool soul tune Waiting at the Station (written for Aaron Neville, pre-Neville Bros.) and Something You Got (covered by every bluesman and woman in existence), raindrops started to appear and by then it was obvious that Toussaint wasn’t going to play anything from The River in Reverse, his superb (and perhaps career-best) collaboration with Elvis Costello. Then the band began the intro to the Glenn Campbell easy-listening hit Southern Nights, which made it easy to get up and leave. Something like that would leave a concertgoer feeling shortchanged at a pricy jazz club, but for free at lunchtime, who cares. This summer’s Thursday noontime outdoor shows at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, put on by BAM, aren’t much: Rebirth Brass Band will be there on July 9, with Malian guitar siren Rokia Traore on August 6.

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments