You’d probably say that it was juvenile. But I think that I deserve to smile. –“Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan, Salaam Remi, and DeAndre Way
Listening to Todd Londagin’s toothsome new album, “Look Out For Love,” is an exercise in frustration. All the good jazz elements are there: a band he’s played with since forever, recognizable songs he’s known and loved forever, and a casual style featuring the oft-missed trombone, which Londagin plays very well, and Sinatra-nascent vocals struck in the past.
The execution is something else entirely.
Londagin, once the leader of a popular New York City band the Flying Neutrinos, is a weak singer at best. His reliance on carrying vocals in a mostly old-fashioned treatise of the Great American Songbook falls terribly, embarrassingly flat. It’s curious why he chose to showcase his voice throughout this self-produced, January 29, 2013 release, as opposed to the trombone.
He’s a far better trombonist than vocalist. On “Look Out For Love,” Londagin’s early influences (Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald) play out in his favorite songs, “Brazil,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “You Go To My Head,” “Some Of These Days,” “Bye Bye Baby.” Well, they try to.
Londagin gathered his go-to band — the Flying Neutrinos’ bassist Jennifer Vincent and drummer David Berger (1990s), pianist Matt Ray and guitarist Pete Smith (2000) — to develop each of the 10 tunes. “Each tune is an exercise in doing things in a different way,” Londagin said.
The arc of tunes seems on its face predictably old fashioned. They’re sung that way, from the up-tempo 1920s in “Some Of These Days,” and a1930s pop song taken over by jazz (“Pennies From Heaven”), to the samba of “Brazil,” Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate On You,” with “Sinatra changes,” and even Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” a song Wonder wrote for the late Michael Jackson.
But then the very last track comes along, a jarring, perplexing anomaly to all this hokey, gee whiz, feel-good retro throwback — Londagin’s ill-advised attempt at versatility: a Jazmine Sullivan R&B number, “Bust Your Windows,” hinting at sexual addiction perverted with obsession. The sexually dark song intro’d in rubato puts Londagin in a strange position, as that of a jilted, sadistic lover.
The late Gregory Clark, a vocal contractor with Smash and a heavy back-up vocalist, had a major hand in guiding Londagin through this song and Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It.” Sorry, it didn’t do any good.
It’s those vocals. Londagin clumsily stomps his way through “I Can’t Help It” as if afflicted with two left feet, when he’s supposed to glide. Although, the piano then guitar threads hold the piece together, but barely. The guitar solo alone makes this entire vocal album a lost cause.
“Bust Your Windows” is downright cringe-worthy with the nursery rhyming interpretation, the off-key vocals, zero inflection, meaning completely over his head, the missed aim at James Taylor depth. Such a shame. It’s the one song where Londagin tries hard to drop the light banter and be raw.
One gets the sense he probably doesn’t even understand any of the lyrics, which belong to that of a lost, rough, dangerous soul, a Mary J. Blige, or even Eminem. The lyrics don’t match the prim and proper Londagin, at all: “I bust the windows out your car after I saw you laying next to her. I didn’t wanna but I took my turn. I’m glad I did it ‘cause you had to learn.”
Plus the notes are all flat. He sings the lyrics laughably wrong, the music’s too monotone, and the abrupt change from easy breezy light to very darkly sexual isn’t convincing. And his voice just doesn’t match the dark mood this piece requires. He sings badly on it, he can’t hang on the high floats, he can’t own the cursory cursing rage with his Disney Kids vocal range. “You’d probably say that it was juvenile. But I think that I deserve to smile.” WTF?
When he sing-songs, “You broke my heart, so I broke your car,” the first impulse is to laugh. Not a good sign.
Why, oh why did this fine trombonist choose this song to cover? Why didn’t he play his horn more? Why wasn’t this an instrumental? Who told him he could sing?
Donny Osmond could’ve done better with the material. And that’s not saying much.