Saturday, August 24, 2019

Mike Pachelli: “High Standards” (2019) CD Review

On his new album, High Standards, guitarist Mike Pachelli seems determined to raise our spirits, an admirable goal, and one he achieves with the help of Tony Levin on bass and Danny Gottlieb on drums. The songs he chooses here are standards with positive vibes, played with joy and pleasure. Some music just seems designed to cheer you up, and this is certainly the case here, the album opening with a rendition of Joe Goodwin’s “When You’re Smiling,” this version having such an easygoing vibe, the notes on the guitar flowing so naturally, while the bass holds everything together wonderfully. How can you help but smile? There is even a wonderful bass solo that contains the main line of the song, leading so well back into the body of the tune. This track has a bit of an early rock and roll ending, a surprising touch. I’m feeling better already, and that’s just the first track.

“When You’re Smiling” is followed by “There Will Never Be Another You,” which also has a pleasant sound. How could so many horrible things be going on in the world while this music plays? It’s difficult to reconcile the joy and beauty of this music with the absolute horror show the world is suffering through at the moment, whether it’s the purposeful destruction of the rain forest or the confirmation of a rapist to the Supreme Court. How can these two extreme worlds coincide? I don’t know, but I am grateful for this music. I dig the loose, swinging style of the drum beat and that wonderful guitar work. Let the world of this music take over. There are some seriously impressive moments on guitar on “Skylark,” as well as another good lead on bass. That’s followed by “Whistle While You Work,” a tune that might seem a bit of a goofy choice. I mean, can things be good enough to get away with slipping this one in? Maybe. The drums get this one going, something that helps me get on board. Plus, there is a bit of a swing to the rhythm, and it’s not long before I find myself swept up in it, grooving to it. And listen to the way the guitar itself dances above that rhythm. You may find yourself whistling before too long; and if not, the trio itself provides some whistling toward the end of the track. So there.

“Sweet Georgia Brown” is a tune I am always pleased to hear. For me, it still conjures images of the Harlem Globetrotters performing delightful feats on the basketball court, so takes me back to my childhood and the innocence of the world as I saw it then. This is a lively, vibrant rendition with some absolutely wonderful work on guitar, plus a cool drum solo. I particularly love the way the guitar and bass are sometimes a team, right in step with each other, creating a delicious effect. Yes, it’s a whole lot of fun, just as you’d want and expect it to be. That’s followed by “Yardbird Blues,” which is surprisingly even more fun than “Sweet Georgia Brown.” I love the way it moves and breathes and rocks. It’s also the one original composition of the album, written by Mike Pachelli. It features some playful touches on guitar, a fantastic bass line and a short but enjoyable drum solo. Keb’ Mo’ joins Mike Pachelli on guitar for this one, adding to the great vibe, the two guitars joyfully interacting.

Mike Pachelli then mellows things out a bit with a nice rendition of the beautiful “What A Wonderful World.” That’s followed by “Put On A Happy Face.” It can be difficult to put on a happy face these days. Sometimes we wonder if we even should be happy, with all the mass shootings, and the fires destroying the rain forest, and immigrant children dying in cages, and the corruption and incompetence and malevolence of the current administration. But the world, despite all of the current troubles, is a wonderful place, and we can’t give in to despair. So it’s all right to put on a happy face, and this music may just do the trick for you. You just have to hit “Play” on your CD player, and let Mike Pachelli, Tony Levin and Danny Gottlieb do all the work. “These Are Soulful Days” is a kind of slow, but swinging number, featuring more delightful work on guitar and a good lead on bass. There is also an interesting drum solo; at the beginning of it, the guitar is still adding thoughts, sort of quietly in the background, not completely yielding. The album then concludes with “Cute,” a fun, cheerful tune. There seems to be a lot of joy in the performance, and it transfers to us as we listen. Can we ask for anything more?

CD Track List
  1. When You’re Smiling
  2. There Will Never Be Another You
  3. Skylark
  4. Whistle While You Work
  5. Sweet Georgia Brown
  6. Yardbird Blues
  7. What A Wonderful World
  8. Put On A Happy Face
  9. These Are Soulful Days
  10. Cute
High Standards is scheduled to be released on CD on September 1, 2019 (apparently it was made available digitally in July).

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