Thursday, May 18, 2017

Calabria Foti: “In The Still Of The Night” (2017) CD Review

How is everyone doing out there? I think it’s important to check in with each other fairly regularly these days, because it’s so easy to slip into a horrid state. Things are going wrong, in large and small ways, and people seem to become dumber each day. I went out to get groceries – out of necessity, not desire – and while driving down a one-way street I was alarmed to find a car heading toward me. I flashed my lights and honked, but the driver was oblivious. Then moments after I swerved out of that idiot’s way, a large group of people decided to wander into the street in front of me. They were in the middle of a conversation and maybe surprised to find they were also in the middle of a street. What’s going on, people? Is it that things have gotten so awful that many people have simply shut down their brains completely? Or maybe wandering into traffic and driving the wrong way down a one-way street indicate a death wish among some of the population. Is it perhaps the idea that a life under the Trump administration isn’t worth living? It’s understandable, I suppose. Things have become incredibly ugly out there. But instead of trying to hurt ourselves, instead of shutting down, we should to turn to those few things we can count on to keep us up.

Like Cole Porter, for example. His songs will always work. And these lines from his song “Anything Goes” seem more apt than ever before: “The world has gone mad today/And good’s bad today/And black’s white today/And day’s night today.” Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Yet no matter how mad things get out there, Cole Porter’s music will be there for us, to help distance us from the daily lies of the current administration, that horrible buzzing noise coming from Washington, D.C. By the way, I am convinced that no one in Trump’s soulless regime listens to music. “Anything Goes” is one of the songs Calabria Foti chooses to cover on her beautiful new album, In The Still Of The Night, a tribute to the work of Cole Porter. And it’s one of my favorite tracks. Joining the talented vocalist are Eddie Daniels on clarinet, Gene Bertoncini on guitar, Michael Patterson on piano, Richard Locker on cello, Jared Schonig on drums, Bob McChesney on trombone, and Ike Sturm on bass.

The album opens with “Just One Of Those Things,” a wonderful song written for the musical Jubilee. I love the way Calabria Foti approaches it. There is a nostalgic quality to her delivery, but also a kind of relaxed feel which then builds into something stronger, like the memory is taking hold of her. Partway through, Eddie Daniels has a nice lead section on clarinet. Calabria Foti follows that with “Miss Otis Regrets,” a song from 1934 first performed by Douglas Byng in Hi Diddle Diddle. This rendition has a cool, late-night vibe, and features nice work by Michael Patterson on piano, and by Richard Locker on cello.

Another highlight is Calabria Foti’s rendition of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” That beautiful, gentle work on piano keeps things grounded for her so that when her voice rises above it, she still has a place to land, so perhaps love won’t completely carry her away. This track features more great work by Eddie Daniels on clarinet. “I Concentrate On You” is a wonderful song, and this rendition begins beautifully and tenderly with cello, an instrument that never fails to move me. And Calabria Foti’s vocal delivery at first matches that tenderness. Then, interestingly, the song takes on a different vibe, with a happier Latin rhythm, and a nice lead on trombone by Bob McChesney. There is more wonderful work on cello on “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” This track features one of my favorite vocal performances by Calabria Foti.

“It’s Alright With Me” is a fun, light, playful tune written for the 1953 musical Can-Can (and often written as “It’s All Right With Me”). I love this song, as it has plenty of delightful lines such as “Though your face is charming, it’s the wrong face” and “You can’t know how happy I am that we met/I’m strangely attracted to you/There’s someone I’m trying so hard to forget/Don’t you want to forget someone too?” I really like the bass line in this rendition, and Eddie Daniels provides some wonderful work on clarinet. This is another of the CD’s best tracks. It’s followed by an interesting rendition of “So In Love,” featuring some unusual percussion for this song, and more great work on bass by Ike Sturm. The CD then concludes with its title track, “In The Still Of The Night,” which begins gorgeously with cello. This is an intriguing and arresting rendition of one of Cole Porter’s most popular compositions, and I’m particularly taken by the way her vocals work with the cello at the beginning of the song. This is a stand-out rendition and is my favorite track of the album.

CD Track List
  1. Just One Of Those Things
  2. Miss Otis Regrets
  3. Anything Goes
  4. What Is This Thing Called Love?
  5. Night And Day
  6. I Concentrate On You
  7. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye
  8. Get Out Of Town
  9. It’s Alright With Me
  10. So In Love
  11. In The Still Of Night 
In The Still Of The Night is scheduled to be released on July 17, 2017 on MoCo Records.

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