Adrianna Marie And Her Roomful Of All-Stars – Kingdom Of Swing
VizzTone Label Group VT-AM625
14 songs – 77 minutes
It’s been four years since Adrianna Marie released her extremely well-received and star-studded Double Crossing Blues album, which garnered her a nomination for a 2014 Blues Blast Music Award, but it’s definitely worth the wait.
An old-style torch singer based in Southern California, Adrianna loves the big-band sounds of the ‘40s and ‘50s and she called upon a kindred spirit to assemble a musical dream for this dazzling follow-up of jump, swing and traditional small combo blues. Kingdom Of Swing was produced by legendary guitarist Duke Robillard, one of her personal favorites, at Sonlyst Power Station in New London, Conn.
The vocalist grew up about 100 miles to the west in a home filled with the classic sounds she delivers today. Her parents were partners in the Carolee Singers, a top folk group. And she makes her debut as a songwriter on this one.
Like her most recent release, the fourth in her catalog, it features major talent from both coasts. Junior Watson, who appears on one cut, and her new hubby L.A. Jones, who handles most of the other six-string chores, came east for guitar chores along with a rhythm section of drummer Brian Fahey, who’s worked with everyone from Bill Haley to The Paladins, Smokey Wilson and Lynwood Slim, and Kedar Roy, the first-call upright bassist from San Francisco, as well as Arizona-based harmonica player Bob Corritore, owner of the legendary Rhythm Room.
They’re augmented by Robillard and a heaping helping of members from his old band, Roomful Of Blues, including pianist Al Copley and one of the best horn sections on the planet: Doug “Mr. Low” James, Rich Lataille and Mark Earley on saxes, Doug Woolverton on trumpet and Carl Querfurth on trombone. All of them get plenty of room to stretch out in the lush, full arrangements.
Their combined efforts would have fit comfortably in Harlem during the golden era of the jazz age, when small combos and big bands introduced music with heavy blues and swing overtones to a new audience and got people up and out on the dance floor.
Adrianna possesses a lilting coloratura soprano voice, and her usually slightly-behind the-beat delivery propels the music forward throughout as she delivers six originals and eight carefully chosen and reworked covers. A horn flourish kicks off the title tune “Kingdom Of Swing.” It’s a song Adrianna wrote in high school, and coincidentally, also the title of an album by Benny Goodman. This one’s a romantic, medium-paced shuffle that describes the sophisticated showrooms that once featured Goodman, Count Basie and others. The mid-tune solos show the band means business.
A rapid-fire, reinvented cover of Johnny Otis’ “Better Beware” precedes the driving swing original “Sidecar Mama” before an unhurried take on Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” The horns shine again to open the original “3 A.M. Blues,” a plea for a wayward lover to return to his loving lady’s arms, before “Gimmie A Roomful,” which Adrianna’s tribute to Robillard, who accompanies on guitar, and “Memphis Boogie,” a new tune with a decided traditional jump feel.
Helen Humes’ “Drive Me Daddy” gets a Chicago treatment next with Corritore on the harp before the original swing, “Baby I Got You,” before an interesting package of refashioned covers — B.B. King’s “Jump With You Baby,” Billy Holiday’s “The Blues Are Brewin’,” Joe Liggins’ “One Sweet Letter,” T-Bone Walker’s “T-Bone Boogie” and Pee Wee Crayton’s “Blues After Hours” – bring the hour-and-a-quarter set to a close.
If you like to swing, children, this one’s just your style. Available through most major retailers.
Reviewer’s note: I’m currently in the final stages of a book project with Duke Robillard, but all of the statements about this album above remain uncolored by that relationship.