Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mark Christian Miller: “Crazy Moon” (2015) CD Review

Jazz vocalist Mark Christian Miller’s new CD, Crazy Moon, features some wonderful choices of material, including standards like “Cheek To Cheek” and some lesser known material by famous composers. Mark Christian Miller is based in Los Angeles, and this is his second album. His first, Dreamer With  A Penny, was released more than a decade ago. Why did someone with so much talent wait so long between releases? Well, in the meantime he’s worked as a music promoter and booked jazz concerts in Los Angeles. And as we all know, it can be easy to get sidetracked from your passions. But he’s back now, and that should make jazz vocalist fans happy. On this new CD, he is joined by Josh Nelson on piano. Nelson also did the arrangements for half of the tracks (Jamison Trotter did the arrangements for the others). He is also joined by Dave Robaire on bass, Sammy Miller on drums, Larry Koonse on guitar, Ron Stout on trumpet, Billy Hulting on percussion and Bob Sheppard on bass clarinet.

The CD kicks off with a really good rendition of “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” written by Harry Barris, Ted Koehler and Billy Moll. This is that kind of positive, feel-good vocal jazz that Woody Allen might use in one of his happier moods. It’s the kind of tune that makes you feel that life is perhaps a bit lighter, a bit better, and a bit more magical than you ordinarily do. You know? “Now I look at life a different way/When skies are cloudy and grey/They’re only grey for a day/So wrap your troubles in dreams/Dream your troubles away.” Listening to this song, you feel it’s not only possible to dream your troubles away, but that to do otherwise would be foolish. There is some wonderful work by Josh Nelson on piano. Jamieson Trotter did the arrangement for this track.

Mark Christian Miller’s rendition of “Tomorrow Is My Turn,” written by Charles Aznavour, Marcel Stellman and Yves Stephane, has a good Latin flavor. I love the bass solo, which begins a wonderful instrumental section that includes a drum and percussion solo. Mark Christian Miller follows that with “Cheek To Cheek,” probably the most popular song on this CD, and a song that Woody Allen actually included in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. It was written by Irving Berlin for the 1935 film Top Hat. This version by Mark Christian Miller really swings, opening with brushes moving quickly over the snare, and then Miller coming in on vocals over the drums, with brief, little touches on the bass. And when the bass really comes in, that’s when the song begins to move for me. In addition to some wonderful stuff on bass, Josh Nelson really delivers on piano. The arrangement for this track is by Josh Nelson and Mark Christian Miller.

Mark Christian Miller’s vocals really shine on “Second Chance,” a song written by Andre Previn and Dory Previn for the film Two For The Seesaw. That’s followed by “Oh, You Crazy Moon,” the song that gives this album its title. It was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, and covered by many artists over the years, including Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker and Wes Montgomery. This version by Mark Christian Miller has a bit more pep to it than many other renditions. It was arranged by Josh Nelson and Mark Christian Miller, and features some nice work on guitar by Larry Koonse.

“I’ve Got Just About Everything” is a fun track which includes some playful scat at the beginning. Jamieson Trotter did the arrangement for this track. “I’ve Got Just About Everything” was written by Bob Dorough, who also wrote “Conjunction Junction” and other tunes for School House Rock. This album concludes with “Almost In Your Arms,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. This was the love theme from Houseboat. This version by Mark Christian Miller is a much livelier, faster paced, upbeat number, and even includes a drum solo.

CD Track List
  1. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
  2. Tomorrow Is My Turn
  3. Cheek To Cheek
  4. Second Chance
  5. Oh, You Crazy Moon
  6. Strange
  7. Moonray
  8. Twilight World
  9. I’ve Got Just About Everything
  10. April Fooled Me
  11. Almost In Your Arms 
Crazy Moon was released on July 21, 2015 through Sliding Jazz Door Productions.

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