If Night at the Speakeasy, the title of the debut album of Svetlana & The Delancey Five, raises visions of the music of a time long gone, there is truth in advertising. Russian-born vocalist Svetlana Shmulyian fronts an ensemble of jazz pros in a hot jazz and swing program of songs old and new, originals, and covers. Hot jazz, as Will Friedwald explains in his extensive liner notes, is experiencing something of a strong revival over a century after its birth in New Orleans. If this new album is any indication of the quality of music the revival is producing, there is plenty of life in the old girl yet.
Get out your dancing shoes, hot jazz is back.
Whether it is an overheated, percussion-driven blast through the Gershwin perennial "Lady Be Good" or a spritely bouncing Vincent Youmans classic "Tea for Two," this is music that will get you up on the dance floor, literally if you're mobile, figuratively if not. They do killer versions of tunes like Duke Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" and another Youmans classic, "Sometimes I'm Happy (Sometimes I'm Blue)." There are sweet tracks like "Under a Blanket of Blue" and "You Won't Be Satisfied," where Shmulyian is joined on the vocals by guest artist trombone all-star Wycliffe Gordon.
They take (relatively more) modern tunes like the Lennon/McCartney "Because" and The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" and transform them into vintage pieces. "Because" gets a truly barroom treatment that oozes dirty brass. "God Only Knows" is a kind of miniature nod to the swinging big band with their girl singers stepping into the spotlight.
There are also some retro-original pieces, including three by Shmulyian: "All I Want," which opens the album, "It's All Good," and "Temptations," a collaboration with Brandi Disterheft. Drummer Rob Garcia's "Dance In between the Moments" has a more contemporary sound with an emphasis on dance, and for a change of pace she sings Russian trumpeter Eddie Rosner's "You Are Like a Song" in Russian.
Besides Garcia on drums, Shmulyian's ensemble includes Charlie Caranicas on trumpet, Adrian Cunningham on woodwinds, Dalton Ridenhour on piano, Vinny Raniolo on guitar, and George Delancey on bass. Perhaps the number has something to do with inflation - whatever the case, the Delancey Five make Svetlana Shmulian's vocals sparkle.