Svetlana And The Delancey Five are an excellent jazz band based in New York City, playing regularly at a venue called The Back Room. That venue is located just off of Delancey Street, thus the band's name. The band's new CD, Night At The Speakeasy, also gets its name from this venue, as The Back Room has been operating since the days of Prohibition. And the music here has that sense of fun and excitement, and also that sense of community and camaraderie that I imagine the speakeasies generated among their clientele (yes, I realize I have a romantic vision of speakeasies). There are some standards, as you'd expect, but also some original material, which are among my favorite tracks. The musicians are all talented, but of course it is Svetlana Shmulyian's voice at the center of it all, and what a voice it is. A voice that is strong, playful, friendly and also sexy - it's a voice you want to wrap yourself up in for a night on the town.
Night At The Speakeasy opens with one of Svetlana's original compositions, "All I Want," which is delightful right from the start, with the horn working almost as a comedic companion to her, responding to her lines, adding its own observations, thoughts. "All I want is always and forever/But for now I'll take your tender kiss." There is then a wonderful instrumental section, with the bass and drums holding things together, keeping a great groove, as each of the other instruments gets a chance to be the voice. There is such joy in this music. This is one of my personal favorites on this album.
"All I Want" is followed by Duke Ellington's "Just A-Sittin' And A-Rockin'" (which Ellington wrote with Billy Strayhorn and Lee Gaines), an inherently fun tune. I love how Svetlana begins it with her voice accompanied by George Delancey on bass. There is also some nice work by Dalton Ridenhour on piano during the instrumental section. (By the way, on this CD this song is listed as "Just A Sittin And A Rockin.") Svetlana also covers Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," for which Bob Russell wrote the lyrics. This is such a wonderful song, and this is a cool, playful rendition, with great stuff on piano. And when Svetlana sings "True, I've been seen with someone new/But does that mean that I'm untrue," she makes that sound right and logical. "Some kiss may cloud my memory/And others' arms may hold a thrill/But please do nothing till you hear from me/And, baby, you never will." By removing the word "it" from the line "But please do nothing till you hear it from me," she changes the meaning quite a bit. Sounds like he'll be waiting forever for her to call him.
"You Won't Be Satisfied" is done as a duet with Wycliffe Gordon, who gives off a strong Louis Armstrong vibe. He also plays trombone on this track. Each singer gets a chance to sing lead, first Svetlana. There's a pause before Wycliffe then gets to reply with his side of things, and the music picks up in pace a bit for him, as if he's the more fun of the two. And then to prove he's the more playful, he tosses in some delightful scat. And then it has a strong finish with the two together. "You Won't Be Satisfied" was written by Freddy James and Larry Stock, and this version has an additional verse written by Svetlana Shmulyian. Wycliffe Gordon also joins Svetlana on a sweet rendition of "Under A Blanket Of Blue."
"It's All Good (Big Noise)" is another of the original compositions by Svetlana, where she is accompanied at the beginning by Vinny Raniolo on guitar before the rest of the band joins in. (Vinny Raniolo has been showing up on some of my favorite recordings lately; last year he played on Myriam Phiro's fantastic Voyages.) Toward the end of this track, Svetlana does some scat of her own. Svetlana Shmulyian also co-wrote "Temptations" with Brandi Disterheft. This is a bright-sounding song that has the feel of a standard (who knows, maybe someday it will be), providing lots of places for the musicians to go during the instrumental section.
"God Only Knows" is my favorite Beach Boys song. I've always loved how it seems equal parts positive and depressing, contemplating the death of a loved one and knowing somehow you'll move forward. It's such a beautiful song. Svetlana And The Delancey Five give it a bit of a swing. I love the trumpet. This band also does a wild rendition of "Because," a rather unusual choice of Beatles songs to cover. I completely love what this band does with it, giving it an old, fun jazz feel. And Svetlana really goes for it, belting out some of the lines. It is really an extraordinary rendition, with Adrian Cunningham and Charlie Caranicas giving it even more character.
I've said it many times before, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. On this CD, Svetlana covers "Oh, Lady Be Good" (here simply titled "Lady Be Good"), and does an excellent job with it. The whole band is clearly having a great time here, and this song moves along just right. I love Svetlana's delivery, and at one point she is accompanied by just Rob Garcia on drums, an interesting and cool choice. Garcia's playing is impressive, and he has a solo here (two, actually). This is one of my favorite tracks. Speaking of Rob Garcia, he contributes an original composition, "Dance Inbetween The Moments" (and yes, that's how it's written). This song encourages us all to go dancing down on Delancey Street, and could very well have you dancing wherever you are.