Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jocelyn Michelle: “Time To Play!” (2016) CD Review

Jazz organist Jocelyn Michelle’s debut CD, Time To Play!, features a lot of original material, with Latin, soul and pop influences. But it was her cover of “The Pink Panther Theme” that initially got me interested in this disc. It’s a tune I love, and she does a great job with it (but more on that in a bit). On this CD, Jocelyn is joined by John Rack on guitar, Bruce Forman on guitar, Doug Webb on tenor saxophone, Steve Mann on tenor saxophone and alto saxophone, Stan Martin on trumpet, Andrea Lindborg on trumpet, Sammy K on drums, Brad Dutz on percussion, Gina Saputo on vocals, and Regina Leonard Smyth on vocals. By the way, in addition to organ, Jocelyn Michelle plays guitar on one track and piano on another.

The disc opens with one of Jocelyn’s compositions, “Englewood Cliffs,” a light, fun, happy-sounding tune, with some great work on guitar by Bruce Forman (who, as you might know, is a band leader himself). I also appreciate Stan Martin’s work on trumpet. And yeah, I can’t help it, but the sound of the organ at times makes me think of being at a baseball game, particularly around the five-minute mark, and perhaps that’s part of what makes me happy about this tune. After all, I love being at baseball games. And then check out those drums toward the end! “A Sister’s Love” also has a bright, positive vibe, with a good groove. This was also written by Jocelyn Michelle. It goes in a wilder direction toward the end, with more great drumming by Sammy K. One of my favorite tracks is “Sunnier Days,” another original tune, and this one too features some wonderful drumming. Several short solos help make this a highlight for me. But everyone just seems to really groove on this track, having a great time, and this tune makes me happy as a result. I love that guitar work by Bruce Forman.

“Sylvia’s Song,” another original composition, is a cool tune, with the saxophone really acting like a voice. In fact, it surprises me that there aren’t lyrics to this one; at moments I wanted to sing along with it. Of course, perhaps I’m just mad. But it has such a strong voice, a strong lyrical quality to this tune. There is also a groove to get you moving. One track that does have lyrics is “Oh No, Could I Be In Love,” also written by Jocelyn, but sung by vocalist Gina Saputo. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Oh no, could I be in love/It’s the last thing I was looking for.”  There is a kind of laid-back feel to this track; even the impressive guitar work seems to flow naturally, easily. The album’s final track, “The Loss,” is the other to include vocals, this time provided by Regina Leonard Smyth. This track is another highlight for me, and Jocelyn plays piano on this one, as well as organ. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “What can you say when it’s all said and done/At the end of this life that was yours/And you just don’t know how to face what comes now/What, tell me what, is it for.”

As for cover tunes, Jocelyn Michelle delivers a cool rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” a song which had some jazzy elements to begin with. Doug Webb really shines on tenor sax on this track, and Brad Dutz provides some nice percussion. Andrea Lindborg plays the trumpet intro, and Stan Martin’s trumpet later interacts so well with Doug Webb’s sax. But I am particularly fond of what Jocelyn does on organ here. This is an instrumental rendition. As I mentioned, I’ve always loved “The Pink Panther Theme.” Even when some of the later Pink Panther films (such as Trail Of The Pink Panther) failed to live up to expectations, the music was an element you could count on to work perfectly. And Jocelyn does a fantastic rendition here. It’s so cool, loose at the right moments, and just wonderful throughout. It makes me want to revisit the films (well, the first several, anyway). Jocelyn Michelle also does a sort of odd rendition of “Last Tango In Paris,” with something of a dance beat. This rendition has more of a 1970s vibe than the original, which actually came out in the 1970s, and features some fun work on organ. The CD’s final cover is a version of “Never Let Me Go,” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and recorded by folks like Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington.

CD Track List
  1. Englewood Cliffs
  2. Sylvia’s Song
  3. Trouble Man
  4. A Sister’s Love
  5. Oh No, Could I Be In Love
  6. The Pink Panther Theme
  7. Last Tango In Paris
  8. Sunnier Days
  9. Never Let Me Go
  10. The Loss
Time To Play! was released on May 10, 2016 on Chicken Coup Records.

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