Jazz CD Reviews – April 2014

April 28, 2014

The name of this site is JazzMostly, and these two albums offer an explanation of sorts for this choice of title. Neither one is a jazz album, yet both have a lot of appeal to me, a jazz fan.

First up is:

Perry Beekman Bewitched (own label)

New York guitarist-vocalist Perry Beekman has already made clear his love for and affinity with the music of the classic songwriters of yesteryear. An earlier CD, So In Love, featured the songs of Cole Porter; the sub-title of this one makes its focus clear: Perry Beekman Sings And Plays Rodgers And Hart. Performing here with his regular trio partners, pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas, takes a relaxed and swinging look at songs that have attracted the attention of practically any popular singer who can be brought to mind, some of them devoting albums albums to them as Perry does here. Additionally, these songs have long been source material for jazz instrumentalists. Among the fifteen songs here are There’s A Small Hotel, Falling In Love With Love, The Lady Is A Tramp, Spring Is Here,Thou Swell and, of course, Bewitched. There are also two instrumental tracks, Have You Met Miss Jones? and Blue Room.bewitched

As is apparent when hearing those last two named songs, the trio swings with elegant ease and all three musicians deliver well-conceived and -performed jazz solos. These qualities appear throughout the album, interspersed around Perry’s vocals. These vocal lines show a different side to Perry’s talent. While his vocal lines reveal his jazz-inflected phrasing, his is a pop-oriented singing style and one that is especially attractive. There is an intriguing presentation of these two sides of Perry Beekman. This comes on It Never Entered My Mind where the song is divided into two separate and distinctive sections; instrumental and solo vocal. Very nice.

Louis Prima Jr Blow (Warrior Records WR 16532)

On this stomping set, trumpeter-vocalist Louis Prima Jr does as his famous father did; he delivers full-frontal, aggressively wailing performances of music that defies the listener not to tap toes, snap fingers and join in the merry-making. Stylistically, this set owes much to Louis Prima Sr, who in his turn drew upon diverse yet compatible musical genres: swing era jump bands, soul, classic R&B, early rock ‘n’ roll. This said, Louis Jr does not rely upon the past; instead, mostly he and his band, named the Witnesses, another nod to his father, perform original material, written by Louis and his musical collaborators here, which unslavishly acknowledges the tradition. The other instrumentalists heard are keyboard player Gregg Fox, guitarist Ryan McKay, bassist Steve Pandis and drummer A.D. Adams, with trumpeter Ted Schumacher and trombonist Phil Clevinger. Key sideman in the band, and like Louis with a lot to measure up to, is saxophonist Marco Palos whose gutsy, take-charge solos have the power and impact similar that which made Sam Butera such an important figure in the original Witnesses. Also heard here is singer Leslie Spencer, whose soulful vocal sound (mostly background but occasionally effectively solo) adds immeasurably to the overall effect, albeit in a manner that is quite different from the way in which Keely Smith’s singing was juxtaposed with the gravelly sound of Louis Sr.blow

Apart from the eight originals (seven by Louis Jr, Palos, McKay and Adams and one by producer Jim Ervin), there is a latterday pop song, Goody Two Shoes, and two from Louis Sr’s repertoire. One of these is Robin Hood, and the other is That’s My Home. On this last-named song, thanks to some in-studio engineering, father and son play trumpet and sing together. This kind of beyond-the-grave duet is risky, but here, thankfully, it works; in part this is because the extrovert nature of both musicians comfortably steers clear of the danger of overt sentimentality.

These two albums are very different from one another; one is smoothly sophisticated thoughtful music that well suits the intimacy of late-night cabaret; the other is often raucous, wild and in-your-face. Although coming from opposite extremes, one similarity suggests itself – to me, at least – and that is that both Perry Beekman and Louis Prima Jr are very probably best seen as well as heard. While seeing them in person is unlikely for most of us, maybe there’s a chance of a DVD? I for one will welcome that.

For more info on these CDs, release dates May and June respectively, go to the artist websites (above) or to the Jazz Promo Services website.

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