The Hot Toddies Jazz Band

The Toddies are something of a supergroup. Led by celebrated stage composer Patrick Soluri on drums, the outfit boasts veteran bandleader Gordon Webster on keys, screen stalwart Justin Poindexter on guitar, Juno Award-winning Brandi Disterheft on bass and vocals from frequent Postmodern Jukebox collaborator Hannah Gill, amongst other leading lights.

The gang performs weekly at self-described “speakeasy in the sky” Gotham Jazz, hosted by Somewhere Nowhere: the NYC lounge bar with an open air pool on its roof. It’s somewhere I absolutely have to visit one day, I’ve decided—but until that day, the Toddies’ self-titled debut record will just have to scratch that itch.

Red Wood Coast

Available as a download, on CD, or on cassette, it’s a French-polished curiosity cabinet of what I’m going to call “fusion swing,” swirling subgenres into a masterpiece of highly danceable music which is likely to appeal to jazz casuals as much as diehards. None of its eleven tracks are deep cuts, but most offer an interesting new twist on a time-honored favorite.

For instance, “Digga Digga Do” seems to take cues from the Mills Brothers’ 1934 side, with its lush vocal harmonies—but Queen Esther’s soulful lead vocal gives it a cool vibe lacking from the track’s 90-year-old inspiration. Like the rest of the record it’s cleanly and crisply produced, updating the classic track with a slick PMJ-like sound for the digital generation. (I think typing that sentence may have just aged me a quarter century.)

Some arrangements mix in a little rock ’n’ roll, for added interest—but don’t let that put you off. Poindexter’s steel guitar trades fours with Gabe Terracciano’s violin on “Love Me or Leave Me,” as well as imparting its surf-rock flavor to “I Wanna Be Like You” (which features a cute new verse sung by Terracciano—but not the one from the 2016 live action movie remake).

Hot Jazz Jubile

“Kansas City” opens with a blast of sax from Danny Lipsitz, evoking Louis Jordan’s jump blues sound before giving way to a stripped back, guitar-led, rockabilly-inspired take featuring Gill’s versatile voice and the best—perhaps only—rock ’n’ roll violin and trombone solos I’ve ever heard (courtesy of Terracciano and Ron Wilkins, respectively).

It’s not all high speed: “St Louis Blues” brings the tempo down, while keeping the party atmosphere going. It receives a fairly standard treatment, opening as a tango before segueing into swing, but a simple rhythm guitar backing and bluegrass fiddle give it a Western vibe, helped along by Poindexter’s mellow, drawling vocal. (This reminds me of Raul Malo of The Mavericks—remember “Dance the Night Away”?)

Then there’s “Blue Drag,” which might just have become my favorite instrumental version of this tune. (The Soggy Po’ Boys’ vocal take is a tough one to beat.) Terracciano’s violin has a major part to play in this inkling—suffice to say that, for my money, his is the most impressive of many strong instrumental performances on this disc. I have to mention Ian Hutchinson too, for his solid bass work—throughout the six tracks he appears on, but particularly on album closer “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

Vocally, it’s hard to top Gill. Her work on “When I Get Low” only solidifies this feeling: it’s smoky, sexy and plays evocatively with the melody throughout the track’s second half. All in all, The Hot Toddies Jazz Band collects a lot of very talented musicians and lets them loose on some all-time favorite tunes with very favorable results. The arrangements sail close to the originals while offering up something new each time—a fine line walked with poise and panache.

Check the record out on Bandcamp now, where you can own it virtually for just $10 and get it on old-school physical media from just $5 more.


The Hot Toddies Jazz Band
Self Titled

Dave Doyle is a swing dancer, dance teacher, and journalist based in Gloucestershire, England. Write him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter @DaveDoyleComms.

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