The music Alan Toussaint is instantly recognizable and enjoyed across genres and decades. Swingadelic is ostensibly a swinging big band, but brings enough pop, funk, and New Orleans second-line sound to their mix to make their songs infectious to all music lovers. Together the combination is a big gumbo pot of fun sure to bring a party!
Musical Genre: Jazz / Pop
Where to buy: iTunes
Allen Toussaint’s music, which has been performed by everyone from Irma Thomas to Little Feat, is all about feeling. When done right, Toussaint’s songs take on a funky depth that’s rare in pop music. But in the hands of the wrong musicians, these songs can become generic, the type of music that wide-eyed tourists expect to hear on every New Orleans street corner.
Swingadelic is a 14-piece band of New York jazz musicians who clearly get a kick out of Toussaint’s music. On Toussaintville, they mostly succeed in their sleek interpretations, bringing a touch of Big Apple sophistication to the proceedings.
John Bauers, who sings most of these songs and even contributes the album’s only non-Toussaint composition, does a great job on classics like ‘Sneakin Sally Through the Alley’ and ‘Working in a Coal Mine.’ Other highlights include the instrumental takes of ‘Get Out of My Life, Woman’ and ‘Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,’ where the musicians get to let loose and show off their considerable chops. All in all, this is a fun and funky album that puts its own spin on the Toussaint songbook.
Alan Toussaint is one of those names in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that have many people saying ‘huh’? Yet they have definitely heard his music and felt the influence of his work. Songs like Southern Nights, Working in the Coal Mine, Fortune Teller, Get Out of My Life Woman, and others have been covered by everyone from the Rolling Stones to Al Hirt to The Who to Robert Palmer to Robert Plant & Alison Kraus. The Yardbirds had success with a rocking version of ‘A Certain Girl’ , and Toissant produced the hit song ‘Lady Marmalade’.
Swingadelic is a New York group but brings a great second-line feel and New Orleans authenticity to the songs. The arrangements are solid and feel genuine – this is music these guys love and love to play. I have to confess that when I read the description of a big band playing a set of cover songs, my first thought was ‘snooze-fest’. But I couldn’t have been more wrong – Night People starts with a solid groove, a bar-crawling tenor sax growl, and launches into some booty-shaking harmonies and funky-sleazy vocal groove. I was smiling before a minute had gone by – oh, yeah … this is good stuff!
If I had to pick a criticism, it would be that on occasion the vocals feel a little ‘over the top’ and break into the ‘cheesy’ realm. Not enough to ruin any song or lessen the impact of the recording, but it was definitely the low-point for me.
I ended up enjoying this album much more than I expected – it combines classic New Orleans with a more modern funk-groove feel, big band sound with small group vibe, and maintains a sense of fun throughout.
‘Quick Hit’ Song: “Southern Nights” – OK, so this marks me as a child of the late-70s (Glen Campbell took this to #1 in 1977), just like my #2 pick ‘Working in a Coal Mine’ marks me as a child of the early 80s (Devo had an infectious new wave cover in 1980). Regardless, Southern Nights is a fantastic song and this is a great arrangement … and having a nostalgic sing-along the first time I heard it only makes it better!
Would I recommend?: Absolutely! From the first moments when I put on this CD my family enjoyed everything on it.
Suggested audience: While this is theoretically a big band jazz recording, in reality it combines New Orleans-style jazz with pop-funk in a way that is accessible and enjoyable. I could see having this on for just about any audience at my house as background music, and I would expect several people to ask about it and later pick up the CD to check it out.
Price: $9.99 on iTunes.
Source: Publisher provided CD – Courtesy of Zoho
Here is a live video of the group with guest Erica Lustig: