Swingadelic: The Other Duke (2011)
Swingadelic has a standing Monday night gig at the New Jersey club Maxwells, which surely makes this band the greatest thing to come out of Hoboken since they built the Lincoln Tunnel. These eleven musiciansa smallish big bandblow an enormous amount of sound out of The Other Duke, a collection of Duke Pearson songs with new arrangements. Pearson was a great pianist who both led small and large ensembles and was an A&R representative for Blue Note in the 1960s. His legacy is a solid collection of compositions that are ripe for interpretation.
The first noteworthy impact of this record is its texture: lush, fat, bottom-heavy with reeds and layers of deep brass. It's an enveloping sound that spreads out from the speakers in a magnificent illusion of space. The opener, "Mississippi Dip," features a notable sound rarely heard on a jazz album: slide guitar. But it is a blues, so Boo Reiner rides over the strings of his guitar and the arrangement behind him, tossing out something at once delightfully fresh and completely natural sounding; it's an attention-grabbing opener.
With eleven musicians on the date, all playing really well, it would be impossible to spotlight all of them, but standouts include baritone saxophonist Jeff Hackworth's terrifically melodic Statement on "Jeanine."
"Big Bertha" is a swing arrangement, straight and true, with an unidentified trumpet adding to the period feel, with some great Bubber Miley plunger-mute growls that could be right out of Duke Ellington's legendary Jungle Music period. Breaking the pace down, "Sweet Honey Bee" utilizes flute and electric piano to drive a softly swinging, 1960s go-go boot lounge vibe. "Duke's Mixture," one of Pearson's most recognizable melodies, brings up the higher-ranged brass as the trumpets wail, but over a highly skilled and finely layered arrangement that also gives pianist John Bauers a chance to show off a little.
But at the end of the day, The Other Duke is truly an arranger's album. Yes, the individuals are worthy and skilled, but it's the arrangements that make this disc special. Unusually, they are the contributions of no fewer than five individual members of this band, and everyone is as good as the next with nary a clinker in sight. This is a high-impact, deep-throated, thundering band that is just fun to listen toand certainly worth driving to Hoboken to hear.
Track Listing: Mississippis Dip; Chili Peppers; Cristo Redentor; Jeannine; Big Bertha; Sweet Honey Bee; Duke's Mixture; Sudel; Ready Rudy; New Time Shuffle.
Personnel: Audrey Welber: alto sax; Paul Carlon: tenor sax and flute; Jeff Hackworth: baritone sax; Albert Leusink: trumpet; Carlos Francis: trumpet; Ron Susman: trombone; Rob Edwards: trombone; Boo Reiners: guitar; John Bauers: piano; Dave Post: bass; Paul Pizzuti: drums.