SVETLANA and the DELANCEY FIVE MAKE "SOCIAL MUSIC"
I wrote about the singer Svetlana Shmulyian and her band, the Delancey Five, more than two years ago here, and I am happy to report their first full-scale CD, NIGHT AT THE SPEAKEASY, is more than pleasing. I found it an engaging session, balancing more contemporary originals and lively versions of venerable jazz and pop classics. In his notes to the CD, Will Friedwald points out that both Svetlana and Jonathan Batiste prefer the term "social music" to "Hot Jazz" or Swing," and this CD lives up to that definition: friendly, engaging, warm improvisations in many moods, music that welcomes listeners in. As you can hear in the video, Svetlana strives to be engaged with her audience, whether she is describing her own motivations, singing standards, or writing new tunes. And her band operates in the same happy spirit: Wycliffe Gordon, trombone / vocals; Adrian Cunningham, reeds / vocals; Charlie Caranicas, trumpet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Vinny Raniolo, guitar; George Delancey, string bass; Rob Garcia, drums. The very appealing arrangements - tight without being constricting - are by Wycliffe, Rob, and Adrian, and they often suggest a much larger band that happens to be streamlined and focused.
Svetlana and Wycliffe give their own flavoring to two songs I always associate with Louis and Ella (from two decades): YOU WON'T BE SATISFIED and UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE; two Twenties classics, SOMETIMES I'M HAPPY and TEA FOR TWO, and two Ellington favorites, DO NOTHIN' TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME and JUST A SETTIN' AND A ROCKIN', are refurbished and shined-up. Svetlana and the band give a warm quirky embrace to GOD ONLY KNOWS from the Beach Boys, and BECAUSE from the Beatles. There are also originals - ALL I WANT, TEMPTATIONS, DANCE IN BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS (Rob Garcia's neat composition which should easily become an anthem for the crowds who come to see the band whether it's south or north of Fourteenth Street), and Svetlana's lovely acknowledgment of her Russian heritage, trumpeter Eddie Rosner's YOU ARE LIKE A SONG, sung in her native tongue. Whatever the language and whatever the material, she swings in admirable ways. As does that band!