Swingadelic loves a good tribute. This little big band's first date for Zoho was all about DukePearson, not Ellingtonand its second set on that imprint focused on the music of New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint. Now the group has set its sights on another singular figure, taking a trip to Johnny Mercer country with positive results.
Toussaint was occasionally a tough nut to crack for Swingadelic, as the soul quotient in his world was difficult to consistently capture or reach. But Mercer's music is a completely natural fit. John Bauers was born to take on his workliterally, as he shares a birthday with this legendary figureand he does right by his idol while putting his own stamp on this material through pen, piano, and voice. He amplifies the wit in the words he sings and carries forward the casual everyman quality endemic to Mercer's writing.
The large majority of these songs should be familiar to those with even a passing knowledge of Mercer, and that familiarity makes for a comfortable ride from the opening of the snazzy "Too Marvelous For Words" through the close of the Sinatra-associated "One For My Baby." In between those bookends, the ears are treated to a morphing "Ac Cent Chu Ate The Positive," a Louis Prima-worthy "That Old Black Magic," a cool-headed "I Wanna Be Around," an appropriately cute "Goody Goody," and a flowing "Moon River/The Days Of Wine And Roses" medley. Bauers is in front on most occasions, either carrying the load on his own or sharing the spotlight with vocalist Vanessa Perea, and he knows how to hit his mark. Whether playing up the shtick on "G.I. Jive," riding a swinging wave in any number of upbeat scenarios, or stepping into Ol' Blue Eyes' shoes for one last round, most everything is in its right place.
Bauers and bandleader-bassist Dave Post have a good thing going with this album, tapping into timeless tunes and bending them to their will. Their trip to Mercerville was definitely worth the efforts it took to get there.
Too Marvelous For Words; Ac Cent Chue Ate The Positive; Blues In The Night; That Old Black Magic; I Wanna Be Around; Goody Goody; Jeepers Creepers; The Glow Worm; Moon River/The Days Of Wine And Roses; G.I. Jive; P.S. I Love You; One For My Baby.
John Bauers: piano, vocals, arrangements; Vanessa Perea: vocals; Dave Post: Paul Pizzuti: drums (1-6, 8, 9, 11); David Longworth: drums (7, 10); Matt Teitleman: drums (12); George Naha: guitar; Robert Edwards: trombone; Alex Jeun: trombone (1, 2, 5, 6, 8); Paul Tafoya: trumpet (1, 2, 5, 6, 8); Carlos Francis: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 2, 5, 6, 8); Rich Polatchek: trumpet (3, 4, 7, 9, 10); Audrey: Welber: alto saxophone, clarinet (1, 2, 5, 6, 8); Michael Weisberger: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone (10); John DiSanto: baritone saxophone; Brian Bauers: vocals (2); Ashley Bauers: vocals (2).