The big news this month is that the elusive Pinky Winters has a new album out. Rain Sometimes (Cellar Door Records CLLR101) brings Ms Winters back in a grand style. Her voice is the definition of intimacy and expresses a youthful optimism no matter what the song. We hope it sells like hell and brings a flood of new recordings, possibly with trios and strings. Rain Sometimes features Richard Rodney Bennett's piano on all tracks and Bob Maize's bass on four. Check Ms Winters' website for more information or order directly from our friends at All Music Services.
If part of Pinky Winters' magic is her youthful charm, despite an assumed rich, full life, Deanna Storey's voice suggests a "seen-it-all" maturity that can't possibly come from the pretty lass on the cover. Storey's album, Sometimes I'm Happy (I'm So Pretty Records) is a solid and occasionally exciting showcase for a really fine new voice. We suspect she's listened to a lot of Annie Ross and we suspect we'll be listening to a lot of Deanna Storey in the future.
One of the happiest recordings we've heard in a long time is Retta & the Smart Fellas' self-produced Rural Jazz album. Retta has a slightly goofy country-cousin sound that is nothing short of infectious. The band plays a relaxed style of solid Western Swing that borrows heavily from the seminal violinist Cliff Bruner 's songbook without being derivative. Our one complaint is that there's no pizzicato on the Jessie Polka. Things could be worse. We've had this disc several for months and it rarely leaves our side. Word has it that the gang is working on a new recording and we're very excited about that!
Verve continues their hugely overpriced series of reissues in paper sleeves at full retail with Lalo Schifrin's Piano Strings and Bossa Nova (Verve SE 4110). Schifrin had a varied career, including the Mission Impossible theme. This new release wears thin fairly quickly. If you're searching for Bossa Nova, keep on looking. Rhythmic easy listening? This is your album!
The Brent Jensen/David Sills Quartet quite cleverly revives the West Coast Jazz sound on the disc Playing Cool (Origin Records 82403). Honestly, we were expecting next to nothing and then found ourselves running over to the stereo to turn up the volume once the recording got started. West Coast Jazz, in certain circles, has the reputation for being the 1950s equivalent to white rap. "Certain circles" continue to take all the joy out of jazz. We'll be listening to Playing Cool and having a good time!
Calm, Cool & Collected (String Jazz SJRCD 1018) is composer/crooner Byron Wall's easy-going and charming recording. There is a real danger in being too cute with this type of coffeehouse-jazz, Walls has solid musical taste and he gives the band enough room to play.
We finally broke down and bought a copy of Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944 (Columbia/Legacy CXK 85470). It's beautifully packaged without being too fussy and the music sounds good. We've read elsewhere that it could have sounded better but it's a huge step up from the old Columbia CDs and the Past Perfect 10-CD box. The problem is the large book that comes with it. Co-producer Michael Brooks was allowed to write a track-by-track critique and he's so negative that you have to wonder why he ever wanted to get involved with this project. He has the most boring jazz-snob taste imaginable and takes delight in criticizing any number that is even remotely pop. Brooks may dislike the less than lofty repertoire that Billie was forced to sing, but she doesn't seem to mind at all. In fact, she sounds positively joyous throughout. Ignore the book and enjoy the discs.
Frank Lamphere is the latest in a long line of
neo-Sinatras and really, he's one of the best. He's not self-conscious
nor does he suffer a case of "the cutes". He's just a guy singing
songs, influenced more by Sinatra and Darin than Jagger or Dylan, and
that's just fine. Ain't Love a Kick (Late Night Records) is an
album in tribute to Sammy Cahn, the songwriter perhaps most closely tied
to Frank Sinatra. Despite the dangers lurking here, Lamphere not only
survives, he thrives. The real test will come when he records an album
of material not so closely identified with Sinatra. We think he'll do
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