"Night At The Speakeasy" is the superbly produced debut album from Svetlana And The Delancey Five, a masterful assortment of intelligently crafted tracks, augmented by renowned New Orleans composer and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. The pairing is divine, creating a swinging compilation that manages to pay homage to the bygone performances of hidden swing dance speakeasies while achieving a modern, crisp, and clear sound.
As band leader, Svetlana Shmulyian is charismatic, charming, and confident, delivering the lyrics with swaggering ease. Backed by the Delancey Five, a cadre of musicians including the ragtime and stride pianist Dalton Ridenhour as well as award winning international reedman Adrian Cunningham, Svetlana resonates easily with the audience.
Svetlana and The Delancey Five are joined on the album by elite trombonist Wycliffe Gordon who not only flawlessly infuses his accomplished long brass into the ensemble, but also lends his hand in arranging multiple tracks. Most significantly, Gordon's gravelly, throw back vocals balance Svetlana's silky delivery to perfection. The result is one of the most extraordinary jazz duets since Ella & Louis. The pair showcases their writing prowess on two numbers, "All I Want" which opens the album with a stellar piano introduction performed by Ridenhour followed by a commanding single "It's All Good". The entire recording benefits from a striking depth of composing and arranging talent amongst the band with Svetlana, Wycliffe, Adrian Cunningham and drummer Rob Garcia offering solid contributions throughout.
The Five take a few detours with an interesting arrangement of "God Only Knows" and "You Are Like A Song" performed by Svetlana in her native Russian. They are at their best however when they are swinging soft with a Tyree Glen-esque trombone performance in their creative adaptation of John Lennon's "Because" or swinging hard in Rob Garcia's original tune "Dance (Between the Moments).
"Night At The Speakeasy" is easily a top contender for best swing album of 2016. The sheer volume of talent brought together is nearly unmatched, allowing Svetlana and The Delancey Five to prove once again that New York City remains the epicenter of modern swing music.