I’m pretty sure that my desert island disc would be a Louis Jordan one, possibly his collaboration with Chris Barber titled Louis Jordan Swings! Jordan’s R&B takes the infectious rhythm of swing and marries it with moody humor of the blues, then Barber’s band sprinkles the result with toe-tapping trad strings and brass—what’s not to love?
Like variety (or vaudeville, if you prefer), R&B is something modern entertainers seem to largely eschew for a purely big band or gypsy jazz sound. So it was a rare treat to review this rambunctious new record from San Diego outfit Lindy and the Hops. Founded by singer and saxophonist Lindy Edwards—also a founding member of the Mad Hat Hucksters—this EP showcases the R&B-infused stylings of a brand new seven-piece outfit.
This disc features five originals plus one semi-original, based on Dimitri Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 2. As well as featuring some beautiful brass harmonies, this instrumental interlude shows off the members’ impressive chops. Especially pleasant is Nightshade Navarro’s creamy-smooth solo on soprano sax—the trickiest sax to play, apparently—which sounds delightfully like a clarinet with the brightness turned up to eleven.
If “The Shostakovich” is a delight to listen to, then the vocal tracks would be equally nice to move to. “Bastards” takes Lindy’s frustrations at an industry hypercritical of female performers and creates a very danceable anthem, with a bouncing beat and battling brass in the middle eight. “Smooth as Gravel” is a friendly diss track aimed at a fictional beau, à la Carsie Blanton’s “My Baby Can Dance” (a dancers’ favourite—I walked down the aisle to it). It’s packed with silly similes and clever rhymes, and is just begging to be grooved to.
“Fish Tacos” is in the same vein, although the metaphor is more singular and… adult. (I both spat out my tea and lost my monocle, to this one.) It too is destined to be a dancefloor classic, if the endless popularity of Julia Lee’s “The Spinach Song,” Fats Waller’s “All That Meat and No Potatoes,” and The Four Clefs’ “I Like Pie, I Like Cake” are anything to go by. (Notably, it also sees bassist Angelica Pruitt let fly with a particularly thumping solo.)
“Someday” has a more contemporary vibe, like a Postmodern Jukebox cover of a modern pop song. (“Today’s hits yesterday,” as PMJ’s website describes the sound.) It reminds me of the 2016 musical movie La La Land—more nostalgic pastiche than historic homage. “Sax Man Blues” is my personal favorite, with its honking baritone (Sean Mehaffy) and spicy piano (Thomas Meyer) harmonies. I was already making stank face by the four-minute mark, when this broody banger kicks up into double time for its one-minute finale.
At the risk of becoming one of those “Bastards”: I like, but don’t love, Lindy’s voice. It’s smooth and sweet—perhaps a little much so when set against the big, beefy sounds of a baritone sax—but isn’t always completely on pitch. There are perhaps three notes on this EP which just don’t quite hit the mark; not by a wide margin, but perhaps enough to warrant second takes. And it might be the book editor in me, but two particular lyrical choices make me wince: “So little women to be found”? That’s not right. Rhyming “day” with “place”? I think not! But don’t let my pedantry spoil your enjoyment, listener.
The mix is of excellent quality—I downloaded the MP3 to check out while shopping and was more than happy with the quality, though there are times when Lindy’s voice could have been a little more prominent. Kicking and Screaming isn’t perfect but, all in all, it’s a very promising debut for a band with big jazz chops and a whole lot of soul. Grab it on Bandcamp for an overly generous $6 right now.