MARLENE VER PLANCK/Ballads...mostly: In a word, fugeddaboudit! With Elaine Stritch's recent retirement in place, Ver Planck steps up to fill the New York sophistication void. Not a brassy broad like Stritch, Ver Planck is a classic jazzbo vocalist that's out to properly service the song first and foremost. With her first call pals in tow, this set shows what happens when you let pros who know what they are doing do their thing. Up market without being stiff, the only time this isn't swinging is when it's smoking. Tasty stuff throughout.
GEORGE DUKE/Dreamweaver: We get older and we lose things. If you are going to mourn the loss of your wife, it's good to do it in the company of pals like Chris McBride, Stan Clarke, Lalah Hathaway, Jeff Osborne, Paul Jackson and others. Reaching in to his back pages to jump start the creativity he thought he lost with his wife, you can hear echoes of all his eras from Zappa to Dukey Stick and beyond. This isn't Mozart's Requiem, it's the aftermath when the sun rises the next morning. It is the sound of a vet jazzbo playing his heart out in fine style.
GEORGE SHEARING/At Home: In a word, sweet! In the early 80s, Shearing and his then bass player teed it up in Shearing's apartment and let the tape roll. Sounding more like Dave McKenna than Shearing, this is the non-set set that'll win over anyone who isn't a Shearing fan. Playing with the kind of off the clock insouciance that real fans love digging into, the duo hits it out of the park with room to spare, just having a good time with no real agenda in tow. Killer stuff, close up and personal that's about as intimate as you can get.
ALEX PANGMAN/Have a Little Fun: What's with these Canuck thrushes and their new fixation with dames of the 20s and 30s? The well decorated Pangman brings her hot club back to the day with Bucky Pizzarelli along the for the ride and the authenticity. Doing a rave up on the chestnuts as well as originals that fit right in with the vibe, Pangman takes her art seriously, but that's about it. Being one of those broads that lets the smooth side show and lets the rough side drag before asking you for a little help with the rent this month, this is the kind of ragingly upbeat stuff that can make you forget about the great depression, old or new. This jazzbo knows how to hit the target.
MARTIN BEAL/Smile: Opera, theater, Beal does it all and has been at it for 30 years, probably most of which has been spent swimming against the musical tides. The striking thing about this set of jazz/cabaret oldies is that he sounds like Gene Kelly doing a cocktail jazz date. Fun stuff that certainly doesn't ruffle any feathers, it's easy charm just has weekend listening written all over it.
MAC DAVIS/A Little More Action Please-The Anthology 1970-85: Ah, the curious case of Mac Davis. He sold a ton of records, wrote hits for Elvis, was photographed with Nancy Sinatra, acquitted himself as a TV host and movie star---and he seems to be getting a lack of love today. Raven rights the wrongs with a fatly tracked set that starts off with one of Eric Cartman's fave songs and proceeds to move through a host of hits that you probably didn't even know he wrote. When covering so much time and ground, there's bound to be the jive that you unfortunately remember him for first, but there's a ton of other stuff that more than makes up for it. Songwriting fans would rather hear the writer do his own stuff anyway and this is a treasure trove of that. Hell, I didn't even remember all the great stuff he was behind. Check it out pop music fans--it's not redneck country crossover or any other kind of designer hyphen music, it's really just good, solid pop from an underappreciated craftsman.
DAVID ARNEY/8: Once upon a time, John McLaughlin made a record where he started out with a full band and a player was taken off each next track until the last, where he was solo. This jazz piano set reverses that pecking order. Which ever way you look through the telescope, Arney is the cat to do it with. Kicking off with a rousing solo revisit of "Caravan", he proceeds to add players to each successive track, many bringing their known names as well as their axes, and the good vibes flow. Always buoyant and engaging, this set works throughout and focuses on the music first. Well done.
PABLO ZIEGLER & Metropole Orkest/Amsterdam meets New Tango: In a word, wow! A new tango record has to suck pretty bad not to be welcome, but here we find this tango original putting tango on the space shuttle and sending it to Mars, with nary a false step throughout the voyage. A big bold orchestral presentation of contemporary tango, think Piazzolla meets "West Side Story" meets the future. It's not just the energy here that bowls you over, it's the work of a hard core muso that cares more about pushing the boundaries than playing it safe. You can't give people what they want if they don't know what they want but a taste maker like Ziegler knows how to show them the way. Killer stuff.
Volume 37/Number 183
May 3, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record
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