Any tribute to the creative prowess and influence of Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans pianist and eclectic composer of great imagination, is always welcome. In time for his 75th birthday, New York little-big-band Swingadelic offers just such honors, taking a galvanizing tour through the land of Toussaint’s tangy rhythm music, tunes made famous by a wide variety of bigger names.
Swingadelic pianist and organist John Bauers is out front for much of Toussaintville, starting with the cascading brass and low-slung acoustic funk of “Night People,” the laidback, good-time feeling of the Glen Campbell hit “Southern Nights,” spiked with Paul Carlon’s soprano sax, and a loping “What Do You Want the Girl to Do.” Bauers’ inviting vocals are also heard on a blues-infused “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley,” a saucy rock hit for Robert Palmer, here bolstered by Jeff Hackworth’s tangy bari sax, and the classic Lee Dorsey track “Working in the Coal Mine,” livened with syncopated brass accents. Bauers contributes the CD’s sole original, “Mr. Toussaint,” a sentimental toast highlighted by Audrey Welber’s alto solo.
Other familiar gems abound, notably the pulsating anthem “Yes We Can Can,” associated with the Pointer Sisters; the Irma Thomas hit “Ruler of My Heart,” sung with much heart and soul by Queen Esther; a slamming “(Everything I Do) Gonna Be Funky,” featuring a raucous simultaneous-soloing section from the trombones and open space for drummer Jimmy Coleman; and a trad-jazz grooving “Whipped Cream,” popularized by Herb Alpert. Toussaintville is a great place to visit.