Side by Side &
We Belong Together
Marginal Records MAE112 Vocals
must be one of the scariest records we've heard for some time. The
song selection, snazzy big band arrangements and an attractive sister
act are all right up the MrLucky alley and yet the girls
are nothing short of horrible, in a wonderful kind of way.
sources tell us the Barry Sisters hit their stride doing a Yiddish
act in the Catskills and these were their two albums of secular
music. By the 1960s, when these albums seem to have been recorded,
Around the World, Who's Sorry Now and Bill Bailey
were all done to death so the girls decided to pep them up. It sounds
almost as if they're improvising except that they almost exclusively
sing every note together. Their attack on the syllables is particularly
harsh and it's hard to tell if they have accents or are just very
Saturday Night Live's Sweeny Sisters, we're sure the Barry
Sisters were confused by their lack of success beyond the small
lounge; they had fine voices, great arrangements and all the trappings
of "show biz." The bottom line must be a lack of talent.
enjoy The Barry Sisters the same way we enjoy the occasional segment
of the Jerry Springer Show or an auto accident. Anyone looking for
the real roots of the current Lounge movement or an explanation
for the success of rock ‘n' roll should definitely look into this.
Verve 314.537.751.2 Jazz
for us now seems to be for the swinging ‘60s but for Lalo Schifren
in 1966, nostalgia meant powdered wigs. The complete title of this
album is The Dissection and Reconstruction of Music From the
Past as Performed by the Inmates of Lalo Schifren's Demented Ensemble
as a Tribute to the Memory of the Marquis de Sade. It was a
gimmicky tie-in to a then popular German play about the Marquis
de Sade but producer Creed Taylor claimed no connections to the
play. He instead wanted "to translate the trends of pre-classical
European music into the modern idiom." Pretty lofty goals and what
he got instead was an album that couldn't have been made at any
other time other than the mid-60s. Taylor and Schifren were aiming
higher than the Modern Jazz Quartet's seminal Third Stream and on
those terms they fall flat on their faces, but they did create a
really great 1960s timepiece that's silly, jazzy and fun.
known as the genius behind TV's Mission: Impossible theme,
Argentinian Schifren was a lot more. Dizzy Gillespie wisely worked
extensively with him producing some of Diz's best later work.
On Schifren/Sade the arrangements are spare and controlled
with none of the grandiosity he can have when writing for a full
orchestra. In fact, the nicest thing about Shifren/Sade is
that while we're sure the fellows worked very hard on it, there's
a casual, almost "throw-away" feeling that's refreshing. The flutes,
harpsicord and guitar are hysterical throughout but the bass and
drums keep things swinging.
say Shifren/Sade is wacky good fun.
Her Grand Piano
The Old Masters MB116 Jazz/Vocals
Ramona & Her Grand Piano makes us a bit sad. While popular
music seems always to allow a small corner for singers with actual
singing voices, these days the options for gal singers seem to be
the overblown hysterics of Mariah Carey or Celine Dion or
the put-on naturalness and self-conscious folksy manner of the Lilith
Faire set. The options seem to be too much hair on top of the head
or too much hair under the armpits. We don't begrudge these ladies
their place (or grooming techniques), put there's no room for a
simple sophisticated vocalist with a story to tell and a song in
her heart. The Lounge movement was a step in the right direction,
but the vocals need to be married with camp in order to be valid
with that set. What's a sophisticate to do?
was a piano-playing child prodigy but her initial success really
came when she teamed up with the seminal Paul Whiteman Orchestra
in the 1930s. Her recordings with and without Whiteman are all witty,
clever and incredibly catchy. She uses her limited voice to its
full effect and at the same time sounds remarkably "down home."
Her piano and the arrangements are subtle swinging ditties that
lend themselves to listening, dancing and dry cocktails. The thorough
biographical notes credit organist James Roseveare as stating: "Her
records make you feel like you're at a party where one of the guests
takes over the piano and does a few smart and sophisticated songs."
And this just about sums up the experience of hearing Ramona &
Her Grand Piano.
off to the label The Old Masters for their beautifully restored
sound fidelity and to pianist Peter Mintun (of the Carlyle in New
York and Mason's in San Francisco) for his very readable liner notes.
Little Gypsy Productions BA 63098 Salsa
readers of MrLucky know well our frustration with the current state
of salsa. The tomato relish served around the world is doing fine
but the music is coming out in fits and spurts. We hate to say it
but the golden age of salsa has passed. There still are fine examples
of Afro-Cuban music around, mostly in a rootsy vein, but the sound
that came out of New York in the 1970s until the mid-‘80s is long
gone. While the Cuban roots of the sound are undeniable, it never
would have come to fruition without the New York Puerto Rican community.
While many of us were listening to Bread's Baby I'm-a Want You
and Rick Dee's Disco Duck, Latins around the globe were rediscovering
their roots and creating a music that sounds as fresh and timeless
today as it did then.
always easy to look back and proclaim that the music of the past
is better than the music of today, but in this case, it's really
true. A singer like Hector LaVoe, who helped define Willie Colon's
early sound, was a unique singer and his singing was easily identifiable.
Celia Cruz was a star but on her recordings she was another instrument
in the band. Today's "stars" like Albita, Marc Anthony and La India
are all talented but are marketed in the same way mediocre pop stars
are, and while they can provide some pleasure, in the end they keep
us longing for the old days. The blame is easy to spread around
from the lackluster sogwriting, mechanical arrangements to the sterilized
we sound bitter? Sorry. We're happy with the great Cuban recordings
that are coming from labels like Ryko Latino and Round World but
we really miss the days of great Latin pop music.
Gitano is a Northern Californian outfit that happily has ignored
all trends in Latin music and just plays music they love. The arrangements
are tight, the songs top-notch and the musicianship suberb. Jazz
fans would be as equally happy as Salseros. Vocalists Mario Perez
and Eduardo Herrera evoke the greats like Hector LaVoe and Pete
"El Conde" Rodriguez without sounding derivitive. The brass section
is tight (but not pat) and all the players are given room to blow.
Dancing seems inevitable but there's more than enough good music
to enjoy if you find yourself chairbound or in a car.
suppose the thing Orquesta Gitano has that the others lack is a
sense of urgency that compels one to dance. The long tracks all
build to a meaty crescendo, pushed along by the musicians, strong
melodies and clever arrangements.
Albita and all the hype from Miami. This year's recording to beat
is Salsa Gitano.
Williams & His Big Band
EMI-Capitol 72438-21045-2-0 Jazz
about having low expectations! Sintraland is a big band tribute
to Frank by the guy who wrote the Bob Newhart theme for TV, featuring
a slew of artists we're normally less than enthralled with.
In general, we don't care for "tribute" albums (although the record
companies love them) and we've always been lukewarm to the talents
of featured soloists Eddie Daniels, Hubert Laws, David Sanborn and
Tom Scott. We also think Sinatraland is a pretty stupid name.
Well, readers, egg has been placed on our oddly youthful face because
Sinatraland is the real thing.
and foremost, the band really swings like they mean it, mostly reminiscent
of bandleader Billy May's way with a baton. Also key are the really
swell arrangements that feel like vintage Capitol-era Sinatra while
still sounding spare and modern with none of that hokey nostalgia
mood that mars so many recordings. Most of the tracks don't even
feature a piano.
Scott, who was so popular in the late 1970s with his own particular
brand of "happy jazz", plays here with a harder edge and still maintains
the melody of I've Got You Under My Skin. The flute for us
is only good in doses and our knowledge of Hubert Laws is limited
to his fusion recordings but he's so good and appropriate on Sinatraland
it almost seems a shame he only gets to solo in You Make Me Feel
So Young. Phil Woods is his usual great self on the Billy May-inspired
The Song Is You, but the real treat is trombonist Bill Watrous'
soloing on All the Way and that's just where he goes. Peter
Erskine is probably best known for his arty jazz on his own and
with Carla Bley but his smoother than Bombay gin playing on In
the Still of the Night earns him a spot with the neo-Rat Pack.
Eddie Daniels' clarinet has always struck as a bit too Wurlitzer
home organ-like and he seems just like that here, especially on
the album closer, Just One of Those Things, but it's not
enough to spoil the fun.
course the real kudos must go to Patrick Williams who has a mile-long
resume but unfortunately will be forever tied to Bob Newhart's 1970s
TV show. He's successfully created a fitting tribute and a great
collection of tracks that would be welcome, even without the Frank