The point at which big band vocal jazz and r&b meets is one I enjoy exploring. And so, too, does the aggregation known as Swingadelic. On the New York City swing orchestra’s latest release, a wide net is cast, drawing from Willie Dixon, Mose Allison, Ray Charles, Doc Pomus, Duke Ellington and others, casting their work – whether it was originally intended that way or not — into the swing idiom.
And it works, without fail. A number of the band members take turn at the vocal mic, and the entire proceeding is put together like a live performance. There’s a bit of keyboard work here and there – subtle organ on Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live,” for example – but for the most part, it’s big, bold and brassy most of the way. The tunes run the gamut from familiar (“Harlem Nocturne”) to little-known – including two band member originals – but in the capable hands of Swingadelic, everything sounds like a classic.
Ray Charles’ ‘Mary Ann” gets a rollicking, New Orleans jazz feel, and a tasty electric guitar solo to boot. Vocalist John Bauers makes no attempt to sing like Ray, but he nails the feel. The sexy and romantic “What’s Your Story, Morning Glory” features some ace trumpet solo work and a lovely vocal by Vanessa Perea.
Combining songs that date from the 1920s to the ‘60s, Swingadelic finds the commonality within various styles. On Bluesville they bend the songs to their cause, never breaking even one of them. A delight.