Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Michael Gamble And The Rhythm Serenaders: “Michael Gamble And The Rhythm Serenaders” (2016) CD Review

Michael Gamble is a bass player and band leader with a sincere love for swing music. He runs the Lindy Focus annual swing celebration in Asheville, North Carolina, which brings together musicians and dancers for what sounds like one hell of an end-of-the-year bash. Following last year’s celebration, Michael Gamble And The Rhythm Serenaders recorded their first album at the Isis Restaurant And Music Hall, and did it live, without any overdubbing or processing, giving the music a great, spontaneous, living groove. This self-titled debut album is now available, and there is a tremendous amount of joy on these tracks. Most of these tracks are instrumentals, but the band is joined by vocalist Laura Windley on several tracks, and drummer Russ Wilson sings on a couple of tracks as well.

Right from the opening of the first tune, “Back In Your Own Back Yard,” this CD transports you to another decade, and consequently all your personal troubles in this decade disappear. Vocalist Laura Windley (of Mint Julep Jazz Band) does an incredible job of capturing the spirit of the music, or rather breathing it, living it, and in the process transferring it to us, thus raising our spirits. This track features Gordon Au on trumpet and Lucian Cobb on trombone, plus some nice smooth work on electric guitar by Jonathan Stout. “Back In Your Own Back Yard” was written by Dave Dreyer, Billy Rose and Al Jolson. It’s followed by a groovy swing instrumental version of “I Never Knew” and then a fun version of “Slidin’ And Glidin’,” featuring some great conversations among the instruments. This is one of my favorites. Then the piano comes in as if to say, “Hey guys, relax, things are good.” And indeed they are.

Things keep moving with Benny Goodman’s “Seven Come Eleven,” whose title reminds me of the Grateful Dead’s “Candyman,” which has the line, “Seven come eleven, boys, I’ll take your money home.” I really dig Michael Gamble’s bass here, and also love James Posedel’s work on piano. They follow that with another Benny Goodman number, “Pick-A-Rib,” which Goodman wrote with Lionel Hampton. Each instrument gets a chance to speak on the theme, and the results will have you smiling and tapping your feet. Another really fun number is “Sweets,” with a delicious, constant groove on bass and drums.

“There’ll Be Some Changes Made” is one of the tracks where drummer Russ Wilson provides vocals, and it also features some great work on horns. I’ve heard a lot of versions of this song over the years, and this one is definitely worth checking out. “Nobody loves you when you’re old and grey/There’ll be some changes made today.” Josh Collazo is on drums, and has a delicious featured section toward the end. Things then relax a bit for a rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Fine And Mellow,” featuring Laura Windley on vocals. It’s a great, bluesy jazz number about a man who’s no good, and yet when she starts singing about specific things about him, her voice becomes full of love. Oh, isn’t that the way? Laura does a wonderful job here. “Love will make you drink and gamble/Make you stay out all night long.” Laura also sings “He Ain’t Got Rhythm,” a song written by Irving Berlin for the musical On The Avenue. Ah, the story of a sad, lonely man never sounded so cheerful. He may not have rhythm, but the band certainly does, and you probably will too, as you bop along to this tune. I love those horns toward the end. Then Russ Wilson returns to the vocal microphone for a rousing “Who’s Sorry Now.”

Another of my personal favorites is “Woke Up Clipped,” written by Ben Webster. It has a great, cool vibe, and is a delight. This version is fairly faithful to the original, and that is just fine. The band also turns in a good rendition of “What A Night, What A Moon, What A Boy,” with Laura Windley on vocals. Then “Crazy About Lester” includes a short drum solo by Josh Collazo, and some nice work on guitar. The CD concludes on a mellower note, with a romantic rendition of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”

CD Track List
  1. Back In Your Own Back Yard
  2. I Never Knew
  3. Slidin’ And Glidin’
  4. Seven Come Eleven
  5. Pick-A-Rib
  6. A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm
  7. Sweets
  8. There’ll Be Some Changes Made
  9. Fine And Mellow
  10. Bug In A Rug
  11. He Aint’ Got Rhythm
  12. Who’s Sorry Now
  13. Woke Up Clipped
  14. Rose Room
  15. What A Night, What A Moon, What  A Boy
  16. Crazy About Lester
  17. Scottie
  18. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Michael Gamble And The Rhythm Serenaders was released on August 12, 2016 on Organic Records.

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