Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 121
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& Love Songs is a superb
set of standards ("Alfie,"
and Bewildered") and
the unexpected (the former national anthem of
the Soviet Union, "The
Johnny Mathis' mega-hit,
The guitarist in this
quartet setting is Eric
Susoeff, an alumnus of
Dizzy Gillespie's group
and a member of Salsamba. He takes a swinging
solo on "Emily," and his
cascading lines, punctuating chords, and round
tone (on his Eastman
AR403CE) enliven "The
Second Time Around."
As for Cole, he more
than lives up to the overused plaudit "lyrical." As
he says, "If you don't know
the melody or the words
- which is true of a lot
of musicians - you can't
tell the story." And Cole's
stories are captivating.
Included in Cole's
program is "It's Magic,"
which was a hit for Keely
Smith in '59. Smith rose
to fame alongside thenhusband, trumpeter Louis Prima. Their mix
of jazz, rhythm and blues, and comedy (with
Smith's deadpan countering Prima's antics)
made them one of the biggest nightclub draws
of the '50s.
After they divorced, Smith enjoyed a solo
career and launched her own Keely Records
label. Long out of print, The Intimate Keely
Smith, from '65, is finally available on CD.
With just quartet backing, its 11 songs were
all first takes, according to the original liner
notes, with Keely's mic technique controlling
Female jazz singers such as June Christy,
Sarah Vaughan, and Julie London had cut
albums with even smaller ensembles, and the
spare surroundings suit Smith equally well.
It's refreshing to hear a singer who can convey
emotion while respecting the song's melody,
without resorting to vocal gymnastics.
The quartet is supportive and sensitive, and
while guitarist Dennis Budimir mainly sticks
By Dan Forte
Paul Mehling: Jeffrey MacMillan.
lto Madness leader Richie Cole is best
known, as the name of his ensemble
suggests, for animated bebop. The
68-year-old grew up in Trenton, New Jersey,
where he found an alto sax in his father's
Harlem Club jazz night spot at the age of 10.
As a teenager, he studied with Phil Woods,
won a Downbeat scholarship to Berklee School
of Music, and played in the bands of Buddy
Rich, Lionel Hampton, and Doc Severinsen.
When he formed his own group, going
against the fusion grain, he not only established himself as a premier saxophonist but
revived the career of Eddie Jefferson, one of
the founding fathers of "vocalese," via their
many collaborations. He went on to record
with Red Rodney, Boots Randolph, Sonny
Stitt, Manhattan Transfer, and others, in
addition to releasing approximately three
dozen solo albums.
But he never devoted an entire album to
ballads - until now. Richie Cole Plays Ballads
to rhythm, he takes a short but meaningful
solo on "It Had To Be You" and provides the
arpeggiated intro to "You'll Never Know."
Budimir was a member of L.A.'s so-called
Wrecking Crew of session greats in the '60s,
although he was previously a member of
Chico Hamilton's group that also included
sax legend Eric Dolphy. Tommy Tedesco said
that, of the studio crowd, Budimir was the
best jazz guitarist, and the albums he made
for the Revelation label in the late '60s are
now pricey collectors' items.
The album's producer was Smith's future
husband, Jimmy Bowen, whose impressive
production resumé includes Frank Sinatra,
Sammy Davis, Glen Campbell, George Strait,
Steve Wariner, and Hank Williams, Jr.
Since leaving Dan Hicks and His Acoustic
Warriors, guitarist Paul Mehling has led The
Hot Club of San Francisco. John Paul George
& Django is the group's 13th album since
their debut in '93, and, as the title implies,
it's a "What would Django do?" take on 15
It's a fun idea, but no mere novelty; after
all, Django Reinhardt's partner, violinist
Stéphane Grappelli, recorded "Here, There
and Everywhere," "The Long and Winding
Road," and "All My Loving." The latter opens
the HCSF album, perfectly at home as upbeat
"Because" is taken at a surprisingly brisk
pace - an impressive showcase for Mehling's
fret work and Evan Price's violin. The quintet
is rounded out by upright bassist Sam Rocha
and dual rhythm guitarists Jordan Samuels
and Isabelle Fontaine. Mehling adds banjo to
"Michelle" and melodica to a finger-snapping
"I Will" (all three guitarists play Maurice
Dupont acoustics in the mold of Reinhardt's
The Beatles' music is so varied and timeless,
it's hard to imagine this concept working
with any other rock group's repertoire. The
group is obviously having a blast here - like
Mehling quoting "Within You Without You"
in "If I Needed Someone," "Day Tripper" in
"You Can't Do That" - so here's hoping they
do a second volume.
The only criticism regards the few vocal
renditions here - "For No One," "Things We
Said Today," and "If I Needed Someone" (in
French). They're far from offensive, but it's
one thing to rearrange familiar Beatles songs,
quite another to invite comparisons with
vocalists Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison.
© 2016 Dan Forte; all rights reserved.