Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

I’ve decided to take a break from watching the news and instead spend more time listening to music, a decision which immediately made me feel lighter. Sometimes you just know exactly what you need, and your body responds. Here are brief notes on a few new jazz albums you might want to check out.

Franglais: “Pairings” – Franglais is normally a quartet performing both standards and originals. However, this particular album features just the core duo of that group, the husband and wife team of Ben Wood on guitar and Eve Seltzer on vocals. They began creating duo arrangements during the pandemic when the clubs were closed and social distancing was recommended, and this album is the result. By the way, there is another level to the album’s title, as the liner notes offer suggestions of alcohol that could be paired with each song, reminding me that I need a fuller bar at home. The album opens with a delightful rendition of “Too Close For Comfort,” featuring a strong vocal performance that includes a good deal of scat. It is a bright and lively performance. The alcohol suggested as a pairing with this song: “Any Red Wine from the Rhone.” That’s followed by “I’m Old Fashioned,” and while we listen to this rendition, we can be proud of some of our own old-fashioned sensibilities. “This year’s fancies/Are passing fancies/But sighing sighs, holding hands/These my heart understands.” Ah, yes. And I do hope that most of the current fancies are passing, and passing quickly. Eve Seltzer delivers scat on this track too, her voice used as an instrument to fill out the sound. Then we are treated to an original number, “I Don’t Wanna Sing,” written by Eve Seltzer. Its opening lines will speak to most folks: “I don’t want to check my in-box/I’m tired of reading bad news.” This is a good bluesy tune that features some cool work on guitar, particularly that solo in the middle. “‘Cause I’m out of motivation/And there’s nothing new left to say.” And I love the guitar work on “Joseph Joseph,” this track one of the album’s highlights, it also featuring a wonderful vocal performance. That’s followed by another original composition by Eve Seltzer, “Lune De Miel,” in which she sings, “Wine glasses under the awning” and “Tonight we’ll raise up a glass.” So what alcohol is recommended to enjoy with this one? “Loire Red.” Sounds right. Eve Seltzer also adds some of her own lyrics to “Stolen Moments,” the duo delivering a wonderful rendition. Actually, two renditions, for this disc concludes with another version, this one on acoustic guitar. Another highlight is their take on “This Time The Dream’s On Me,” for the joy you can hear from both of them. And, yes, there is a bit of scat on this one. Then Justin Lees and Dallas Vietty join the duo on guitar and accordion respectively for their version of Laura Nyro’s “Save The Country,” another of my personal favorites, the group becoming a quartet once more. There is an excellent instrumental section. “I got fury in my soul/Fury’s gonna take me to the glory goal/In my mind I can’t study war no more.” This album was released on March 14, 2023.

Noshir Mody: “A Love Song” – Guitarist and composer Noshir Mody’s new album contains all original compositions, pieces that reflect different aspects of the time of the pandemic. Joining him on this album are Benjamin Hankle on flugelhorn, Campbell Charshee on piano, Yuka Tadano on double bass, and Ronen Itzik on drums, with Kate Victor on vocals on one track. “What Tomorrow May Bring” establishes a catchy rhythm at the beginning, one that seems to promise good things, immediately giving us a sense of optimism with regard to the future, that things will be all right, that life will not stop. The movement of the rhythm promises us as much. And Noshir Mody’s guitar work adds to that sense of optimism, of hope, and even of joy. I absolutely love that guitar part, particularly that initial section, which I ended up listening to over and over because of the feeling it produced in me. The piano and flugelhorn then join, and there is a beauty to the music. Things have been so uncertain, but the music here says that even that uncertainty is okay. Then “The Yards” has its own particular sense of beauty, seeming to be about using the time to take a closer look at the places we pass regularly and finding beauty in those surroundings. The pandemic gave us the time to become better acquainted with our own neighborhoods. This piece feels like a new morning in some ways, finding a new appreciation of familiar places. There is no rush here. But there are surprises, as when the drums take over in the second half. I was not expecting such great and prominent percussion on this tune. That’s followed by “Mystic,” which Noshir Mody begins on guitar. There is beauty here too, beauty with a sense of the past, with strong voices reaching out to join the present, perhaps even to mold the present, heard especially the flugelhorn. “In The Absence Of Answers” has my favorite title of any track on this album, and as it begins on guitar and bass, there is a sense of fun about it, as if to say not to worry too much about the lack of answers. The tone does become more serious, but remains pleasant, encouraging us to relax. I particularly enjoy the work on piano. The album concludes with its title track, which is the track to feature Kate Victor’s vocals. It begins with some gentle and loving guitar work. Here are the song’s first lines: “Step into the rain, my love/To write a love song/You need to live, love and lose.” The warmth of her delivery and the energy of the music pull us in and unite us. This track also features some really good work on guitar, and toward the end, the song builds in power, swelling up from within. This album was released on May 26, 2023.

Anthony E. Nelson, Jr.: “Swinging Sunset”
– Saxophonist and composer Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. pays tribute to classic organ trios on his new album, Swinging Sunset. Joining the tenor saxophone player are Kyle Koehler on organ and Cecil Brooks III on drums. There are both covers and original compositions on this disc. The album opens with a totally enjoyable rendition of Eddie Heywood’s “Canadian Sunset” that gently swings and grooves and features some sweet work on saxophone. And partway through, Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. gets looser and his saxophone begins to get lively. Kyle Koehler then takes over, matching that higher energy on organ. The jam continues, but the track begins to fade out. Interestingly, more of the jam is included as a separate track, easing back in where the first track left off, and titled “One More Once,” an original piece. It too fades out, leaving me wanting even more. Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. then gives us a cool take on Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk.” I particularly like it when the saxophone begins to really fly. That’s followed by an original number titled “Uno Mas Por Roberto,” a catchy tune that features some soulful playing and a delicious beat. This is one of my personal favorites. Kyle Koehler then begins “These Foolish Things” with a brief organ solo, setting the tone. This track has a beautiful late-night feel, and the work on saxophone is particularly moving, helping to make this another of the disc’s highlights. The band changes gears for “Minor Chant,” which is a whole lot of fun and also incredibly cool. This track has me smiling immediately, with its confidence and attitude and joy. Yes, it’s another favorite of mine. Everything about this track works perfectly. Then Cecil Brooks III sets “Mildew” in motion with his drum intro, and the track gets cooking, the great beat remaining at its center. There is even a drum solo toward the end, so I love this track. Another fun track is the trio’s rendition of “Three Little Words,” Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. delivering some delicious work on sax. This track also contains a drum solo. They then slow things down for the soulful, bluesy “Walk With Me,” which features a cool lead on organ and then some powerful moments on saxophone. The album concludes with an original composition, “Last Call (For Gryce),” a wonderful blues number written in honor of Tommy Gryce. This album is scheduled to be released on June 9, 2023.

The Pacific Jazz Group: “The Pacific Jazz Group” – This group is made up of Dred Scott on piano, Eric Crystal on tenor saxophone, John Wiitala on bass, and Smith Dobson on drums. They take their name in honor of the Pacific Jazz Records label, and celebrate some of the artists who recorded for that label, focusing on the work of Gerry Mulligan. The album opens with “Bernie’s Tune,” a piece written by Bernie Miller, and popularized by Gerry Mulligan’s recording. The music here is seriously cool, with a strong sense of fun. The piano has a great feeling of freedom, and the bass and drums are cooking along. The saxophone comes at you without worry, but with just the joy of playing. There is a delightful spirit to the playing. “Bernie’s Tune” is followed by “Maid In Mexico,” a tune composed by Russ Freeman, and recorded by Chet Baker Quartet on Pacific Jazz. It opens with some nice percussion, and feels like a day at some wonderful beach resort, shirt unbuttoned, drink in hand, light breeze keeping you cool, and no obligations whatsoever. Ah, what could be better than to approach your life like a casual dance? Then they give us “Line For Lyons,” the first of four compositions by Gerry Mulligan. The saxophone eases us along the road, again with no sense of hurry, feeling relaxed and cheerful. The rhythm section, meanwhile, keeps things lively. The piano is what makes the trip interesting, making sure we take in some of extraordinary sights. And in the second half, we are treated to a lead on bass, as well as some short drum solos. That’s followed by “Casa De Luz,” written by Shorty Rogers, and included on a 1955 album he recorded with Bud Shank and Bill Perkins on Pacific Jazz. This one feels like a cool party, where everyone is mingling, smiling, drinking, dancing, the piano leading the dance and the merriment, the saxophone then taking over halfway through. But it is the percussion that keeps my toes tapping. The last three tracks were all composed by Gerry Mulligan, beginning with “Festive Minor.” Pacific Jazz Group does an absolutely wonderful job with this tune. Why can’t life always feel like this, always sound like this? Then “Nights At The Turntable” has good vibes from its start, featuring some excellent work on saxophone and a seriously cool bass line. And they wrap things up with “Utter Chaos,” possibly the coolest track on the disc. I just can’t get enough of this one. This album is scheduled to be released on June 23, 2023.

Gaea Schell: “In Your Own Sweet Way” – Gaea Schell is a pianist, flutist, singer and composer. Her new album features mostly original material. Joining her on this disc are Jordan Samuels on guitar, John Wiitala on bass, and Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums, with a couple of guests on certain tracks. The album opens with “Cava dell’Isola,” which begins with a pretty section, the flute supported by guitar. Then, after a minute or so, the guitar leads the transition into the main body of the piece, the bass and drums coming in, and Gaea Schell switching from flute to piano (though at one point toward the end, she goes back to flute for a nice lead). Carlos Caro joins the group on percussion. There is a light, carefree vibe to this piece, and Jordan Samuels delivers some excellent work on guitar. That’s followed by “Sweet & Lovely,” the first of three covers on this album. This one has such a great feel about it, a tune to get you smiling and swaying, maybe dancing. It features a delicious drum solo, helping it become one of my favorite tracks. Gaea Schell switches gears with “Forio Rain,” which features some warm, beautiful piano work. I just want to close my eyes and let this music carry me along like a gentle river or breeze. Carlos Caro returns on percussion for “El Picacho,” and Marco Diaz joins the group on both trumpet and piano. This one eases in with some pretty, yet somber work on piano, before kicking in to become a fun piece, the flute and trumpet working together early on, and the rhythm getting your body to move. The album’s second cover, and first track to feature vocals, is “It Had To Be You.” This rendition is a delight, with some really nice phrasing. Gaea Schell puts her own spin on this song. I dig that section with bass and drums. And I love the warmth and the soothing vibe of “Summer Sea.” Don’t we all need music that will transport us, as this track does? That’s followed by a cover of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” the album’s title track, with lyrics added by Gaea Schell. “In your own sweet way/You took my hands in your embrace.” As you might expect, there is plenty of great stuff on piano. This track also features a good lead on bass. Carlos Caro then joins her once again on percussion for “Luna Plateada,” a piece that feels like a romantic dance that takes place in memory, an old light in the current darkness. It’s a beautiful track. The mood remains thoughtful for “Danza Nocturna De Flores,” a pretty and moving piano piece. Keeping with a nighttime theme, Gaea Schell follows that with “Un Sueno De La Noche,” which has a gentle vibe. The album concludes with “Perplexity,” which features some nice work on drums. This album is scheduled to be released on June 23, 2023.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Adam Green: “Garfield” (2002/2023) CD Review

A lot of folks got turned onto The Moldy Peaches when their song “Anyone Else But You” was used in the film Juno, which came out in 2007.  By that point, band co-founder Adam Green had already released several solo albums. The first, Garfield, came out in 2002, and has now been re-issued with a whole lot of bonus material, including demo versions and live recordings and even a couple of covers. This release also includes some brief notes by Adam Green on most of the tracks. It’s interesting that the photo he chose for the album’s cover is the same photo that is on the self-titled album from The Moldy Peaches (and Kimya Dawson used her photo from that album cover on her Knock-Knock Who? release). This expanded version is available on both CD and vinyl, and the vinyl apparently comes in two different colors, powder blue and orange.

The album opens with “Apples, I’m Home.” It has that wonderfully odd, loose, improvised feel, almost like it is unfinished, that we’re being treated to music in progress. And that is part of the charm of Adam Green’s music. But there is also certainly some humor to this short song. Spencer Chakedis provides the electronic sounds on this track. That’s followed by “My Shadow Tags On Behind,” in which Adam Green sings, “Face it, kid, you were never what they wanted,” a harsh line, but delivered in an almost matter-of-fact manner. And actually, the song has a sweet folk sound, and on this one, Adam is joined by Joel Green on clarinet. “I know that everyone’s got something that they do/But I don’t want to be obsolete to you/Oh, I don’t want to carry my bag on one shoulder for you.” His vocals at times remind me of Syd Barrett’s solo work. This is one of my personal favorites.

Leah Green joins Adam on vocals for “Bartholemew,” a song with a rather gentle sound. Check out these lines: “Oh, the old men wave their canes/They have yesterday’s brains/And their worlds stop turning on Sundays.” And these: “Oh, the mirror always shows/There’s a stranger in my clothes/Standing on the third rail.” Not bad, right? Then “Mozzarella Swastikas” might have the feel and sound of one of those great folk songs of the 1970s, but the lyrics are certainly unlike most of what the troubadours then were offering. And I love that these songs are humorous without sounding funny. You know? “Now the king was reading comics/When he stepped into some vomit/And he screamed like forty wolves/Being burned alive.” Interestingly, “Dance With Me” has something of a rock vibe, fitting with the lines “Turn the lights on bright/You’re a rock and roll star.” Though of course this is a low-fi version of rock, even when that electric guitar comes in. Matt Romano plays drums on this track.

“Computer Show” is an interesting one. Okay, all these songs are interesting, granted. But this in particular grabs me and demands I pay close attention. It starts off on acoustic guitar and seems gentle enough, and with a catchy bit on guitar. But those early lines “I didn’t have a passport/So they turned me into snow” hint at what is coming. And the song begins to build in power, and in strangeness. “You caught my eye against your eye/Deep inside the crowd/You hung me from the hooks inside/My asshole and my mouth.” Spencer Chakedis is credited as providing “electronic sounds.” The instruments and electronic sounds develop a sort of beauty together, and the ending is oddly sweet. This is another of the disc’s highlights. It’s followed by “Her Father And Her.” This one has a darker, more somber sense about it. “And she took me to her little tower/And she showed me her little flower/And just when I thought it was safe to put down my pen/She said maybe I will let you fall in love with me again.” He gets angry at the end.

“Baby’s Gonna Die Tonight” begins with some work on guitar. And when it kicks in, there is a strong Rolling Stones influence heard in its sound, in its energy, in the vocal delivery. And perhaps just naturally it ends up with something of a punk thing happening too. That’s followed by “Times Are Bad,” which includes the word “curmudgeon” in its lyrics, reason enough to like it. And Joel Green returns on clarinet at certain points. “And the people that you love/Are attacking you from above/And everyone that you trust/Is just selling you a bucket of lies/Well, just believe/That it’s all going to be okay.” The main section of the original album then concludes with “Can You See Me,” another unusual song, with distinct sections. “Anyone could pop in as you/Tried to untie your lips/But they were double-knotted/I tried to break into your brain/But all the entrances were rotted.”

The original CD included the three-song EP Dance With Me, with a minute of silence to separate the main section and the EP tracks. The first of the three EP tracks is its title track, “Dance With Me,” a different version from album, with a more pronounced, solid beat. It’s a more polished rendition, which I actually prefer, to my surprise. That’s followed by “Bleeding Heart,” a totally delightful song from the start. It is one that was also recorded early on by The Moldy Peaches. This version has a sort of bouncy vibe. The last of the tracks from the EP is a different version of “Computer Show.” Both versions are excellent.

Bonus Tracks

This expanded version of the album contains thirteen bonus tracks. The first is the demo of “Mozzarella Swastikas.” It’s funny because, and I don’t mean this as an insult or anything, a lot of what Adam Green releases (including The Moldy Peaches recordings) sound like demos already, with that low-fi vibe. So this, to me, is just another rendition, and it’s delightful. After all, who else writes lyrics like these: “And the mozzarella sweaters/Get sewn to the tits/Where the lump behind the sheet/Is where the tumor took a shit/And I’ll be getting head/Under the rainbow.” This version features drums. That’s followed by a demo of “Steak For Chicken,” a song that was recorded by The Moldy Peaches, and included on that self-titled album. It is one I’ve loved since I first heard that Moldy Peaches album. There is a bit of banter at the beginning of this track, “making me nervous.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “How am I going to pay the rent/Sitting on your face/Who mistook the steak for chicken/Who am I gonna stick my dick in/We’re not those kids sitting on the couch.” And on this recording, he laughs as he sings “Who am I gonna stick my dick in.” He also laughs when delivering the line “Traded my wife in for a new three-holer.” This is a great rendition. That’s followed by the first of the live recordings, a pretty rendition of “Bartholomew.”

The bonus tracks include a cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” one of two covers on this disc. Adam Green does a good job with it. That’s followed by a demo of “Times Are Bad,” recorded in 1996, feeling a bit slower than the album version. Then we get a live version of “Her Father And Her.” This song has a kind of classic story folk song vibe, and is delivered in a serious manner and tone, even lines like “I carry refreshments to the good guys/I made the good guys some home fries.” That’s followed by “Let The Kids Want What They Want,” a song with a very different vibe, opening with some electronic sounds, a pulse, and then each line is repeated several times: “Press ‘Play’ and turn this party on” and “Let the kids want what they want.” It’s a kind of wild mix of electronic and punk elements. A live recording of “My Shadow Tags On Behind” follows. The sound quality isn’t as good on this track, but I am still glad it is included here because the performance is good.

This disc contains a third version of “Computer Show,” a live version featuring a full band that includes a string section, so with quite a different sound from the other versions. It’s very cool. Antoine Silverman and Joan Wasser are on violin, David Gold is on viola, and Jane Scarpantoni is on cello. In addition to the string quartet, this track includes Chris Isom on guitar, Steven Mertens on bass and Parker Kindred on drums. “I can’t go home without going home with you.” That’s followed by a demo of “Bleeding Heart,” this version without the drums. The disc’s second cover is The Doors’ “Crystal Ship,” a surprising choice. And guess what, he does a good job with it. That’s followed by a live recording of “I Wish That I Was Nice,” a song that Adam Green apparently never recorded a studio version of. It has a truly goofy ending. The disc concludes with a live version of “Baby’s Gonna Die Tonight.” In introducing it, he says, “This is going to be the last song we’re gonna play,” so it is fitting as a final track. Anyway, this song features the full band, with strings. I wish the sound quality were a little better, because it’s a strong and powerful performance.

CD Track List

  1. Apples, I’m Home
  2. My Shadow Tags On Behind
  3. Bartholemew
  4. Mozzarella Swastikas
  5. Dance With Me
  6. Computer Show
  7. Her Father And Her
  8. Baby’s Gonna Die Tonight
  9. Times Are Bad
  10. Can You See Me
  11. <Blank>
  12. Dance With Me (EP Version)
  13. Bleeding Heart
  14. Computer Show (EP Version)
  15. Mozzarella Swastikas (Demo)
  16. Steak For Chicken (Demo)
  17. Bartholemew (Live at Makor)
  18. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  19. Times Are Bad (Demo)
  20. Her Father And Her (Live at Makor)
  21. Let The Kids Want They Want
  22. My Shadow Tags On  Behind (Live at Sidewalk Café)
  23. Computer Show (Live at Pier 54)
  24. Bleeding Heart (Demo)
  25. Crystal Ship
  26. I Wish That I Was Nice (Live at Sidewalk Café)
  27. Baby’s Gonna Die Tonight (Live at Pier 54)

This expanded edition of Garfield was released on April 14, 2023 through Org Music.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals: “Charlie Faye & The Fanimals” (2023) CD Review

In 2016, Charlie Faye released the first Charlie Faye & The Fayettes album, exploring her love of 1960s girls groups, but doing so through original material. Now she is releasing the first album of a new project, Charlie Faye & The Fanimals, again using some of those classic sounds, but now to deliver material aimed specifically at children. And again, the songs on this self-titled debut are all originals, written or co-written by Charlie Faye. And guess what? The Fayettes (Akina Adderly and BettySoo) join her on this album as well. So it’s everything we have come to love about Charlie Faye, just aimed at a younger audience. And why the shift in direction? Well, in 2019, after the release of The Whole Shebang, Charlie Faye became a mother. So when all the music venues were closed because of the pandemic, Charlie Faye was at home with a toddler. It just makes sense that she’d begin to write music for her new audience, basically the only audience she had for a time. The band backing her includes Pete Thomas on drums (he is also the drummer of Charlie Faye & The Fayettes), Scott Davis on bass, Adrian Quesada on guitar, and Trevor Nealon on keys, along with several guests on various tracks.

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals kick off this release with “7 Days Of Fun,” a song about the days of the week. The week in this case begins with Monday, not Sunday: “Monday, number one day/The first day back to school.” And is that a little nod to Paul McCartney when she sings “Thursday, Friday, we’re going to play/Like a band on the run”? As for Sunday, she sings, “Sunday I’ll stay in my pajamas.” Amen to that. I don’t own pajamas, but I appreciate the thought. Dana Starr Brunberg Sparling and Veronica Sue Brunberg Sparling join the Fayettes on vocals on this track, and Dana Starr Brunberg Sparling also plays flute. Jim Brunberg also adds some vocal work, and plays keys and percussion. This is a fun track, as its title promises, making the entire week sound like a party. It was written by Charlie Faye and Joe McDermott. That’s followed by “Milo Wears A Tutu,” written by Charlie Faye and Sara Hickman. As far as I know, kids have always played around with gender roles (since, largely, rules on gender roles are rather silly), but now this is finally becoming accepted by parents rather than greeted with horror or anger, and Charlie Faye celebrates this freedom with this song about a boy who wears a tutu when he wants to. “Well, I’ll wear a tutu if I want to/If I want to wear a tutu/Wear a tutu if I want to/If I want to wear a tutu/That’s what I’ll do.” It’s a good message for kids, and for adults, for that matter, for, as Charlie Faye sings here, even when Milo grows up, he on occasion likes to wear a tutu. And why not? Life is much too short to get all hung up on conforming to some arbitrary ideas of what constitutes “masculine” and “feminine.”

“Snack Time” is one that would be difficult to dislike. As far as I’m concerned, it is always snack time, though my girlfriend says I need to cool it, as my belly expands into the neighbors’ yard. On this one, Charlie Faye sings, “I’m snacking with my friends/Until the snack time ends/But no I never turned my back on snack/Snack time, snack time/Hey there, how about a piece of cheese?” Yes, please! I totally dig that work on keys. This music makes me happy, with the Fayettes, or rather Fanimals, singing “Snack time” at the beginning of a line, sort of like the way the vocalists sang “Batman” in the theme to the 1960s television show. This track also features a cute ending that has me laughing. This song was co-written by Suzanna Choffel, who also provides some vocal work. Dana Starr Brunberg Sparling and Veronica Sue Brunberg Sparling again join on vocals, and Jim Brunberg is on vocals, organ and percussion.

Remember when Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate caused such a stir? People lost their minds about those books. I was living in Oregon in the early 1990s, and there was a group there whose main goal seemed to be the removal of those books from all libraries. I thought we had come a good distance since then, but of course we haven’t. Some people deliberately remain behind, and want to pull everyone else back, as evidenced by the current trend in places such as Florida to ban books like And Tango Makes Three. In “Me & My Family,” Charlie Faye celebrates different family configurations, opening with these lines: “This is me and my family/It’s Mama and Mommy and me.” And the lyrics are delivered with joy. Plus, this song features a delicious rhythm, so it is full of good cheer. “Everyone deserves a song,” she sings. Sure, except Ron DeSantis – he does not deserve a song. That’s followed by “Get Down.” Well, you know a song titled “Get Down” is going to be fun. This is a good dance song. “Get down, baby/Get down, down/Jump up, baby/Then turn around/Get down, baby/And jump up to get down/Jump up to get down.” And there is that “ah ah ah” bit, as in “Twist And Shout.” This track is a delight. Then Charlie Faye & The Fanimals give us “Cookie Tree.” Oh, why isn’t there such a thing as a cookie tree? I want to go camping in a forest of cookie trees, no need to pack any food. We’ll go in autumn, when the cookies fall from the branches to make things even easier. Anyway, this is another completely delightful number, with reggae elements and horns. Jim Brunberg plays trumpet, saxophone, keys, percussion, nose flute and xylophone. Brian Myers is on saxophone and piccolo. This one was written by Charlie Faye and Pete Thomas.

The disc’s final three tracks are about different animals (or Fanimals?). The first of these is “Armadillo,” written by Charlie Faye and Bill Demain. “If you get scared/Oh, I’ll be there/To help you cross the road/Armadillo.” This song takes place in Texas, which makes me think of the line from Ellis Paul’s “Snow In Austin,” “armadillos upside down.” Michael Ramos plays accordion on this track, and Barbara Nesbitt joins Akina Adderley on backing vocals. Then comes “Puppy In The Bath,” which also was written by Charlie Faye and Bill Demain. Something about this one reminds me of The Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” or perhaps something by Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson. It is another cheerful number, and even includes some whistling, courtesy of Jim Brunberg. And then we have “Octopus Getting Dressed,” its title providing us with a funny mental image before the song even starts. “One, two, three, four/I was into my sleeves, but I got more/Five, six, seven, eight/Now I’m dressed and feeling great.” And it isn’t just an octopus that gets dressed here, but also a spider and a child.

CD Track List

  1. 7 Days Of Fun
  2. Milo Wears A Tutu
  3. Snack Time
  4. Me & My Family
  5. Get Down
  6. Cookie Tree
  7. Armadillo
  8. Puppy In The Bath
  9. Octopus Getting Dressed

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals is scheduled to be released on July 21, 2023.

Mira Choquette: “In Reel Time” (2023) CD Review

Mira Choquette is a jazz vocalist based in Montreal. She released her first album, Something Cool, in 2015, and followed that with an EP, It Felt Like A Fall Affair, in 2021. Her new full-length release, In Reel Time, was recorded in classic fashion, with all the musicians performing together, doing only a couple of takes of each song, with just a bit of vocal overdubbing done on the third day. They used analog equipment, and recorded the tracks at the home of Josh Goldman, who plays bass and produced the album. The results are wonderful, the album having an intimate quality, which is perfect for the songs chosen. In addition to Josh Goldman, this album features Ewen Farncombe on piano, and Morgan Childs on drums.

The album opens with “No Moon At All,” a song written by Redd Evans and David Mann, and originally recorded by Doris Day. Mira Choquette delivers an absolutely wonderful rendition, featuring some excellent work on piano. She has fun on the lines, “I could cheer/Hold me, dear/Closer, dear/Tighter, dear,” then gives us a bit of scat. There is a great, light atmosphere, and she is so endearing as she sings, “Don’t you make a sound, it’s so dark/Even Fido is afraid to bark/What a perfect chance to park/And there’s no moon at all.” I love the timeless feel of the recording. If you want to escape from the present, or make the present a little better, this disc ought to be of help. “No Moon At All” is followed by Cole Porter’s “Just One Of Those Things,” written for the 1935 musical Jubilee. Mira Choquette’s handling of that first section is beautiful, and, as always, I appreciate the Shakespeare reference: “As Juliet cried in her Romeo’s ear/Romeo, why not face the fact, my dear.” And then the band starts to cook, particularly Josh Goldman on bass, and Mira’s tone changes accordingly. Everything is great fun, Ewen Farncombe racing on piano during that lead section in the second half, and some delightful scat, punctuated by short bursts on drums. I love it. This sounds like a private party in your home, with a good group of thirty or forty close friends cutting loose deep in the night when the outside world is completely forgotten.

“Love Crime” features a playful vocal delivery that is just delightful. And while this song has a classic feel, it is an original composition by Josh Goldman and Mira Choquette. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “If you found a wallet, would you give me the cash/I know of a wedding if you’re willing to crash/And commit a little love crime for me.” Who could deny her? Oh, the things we’ll do. “Oh, I’d like to travel to a faraway land/Where we can put our little toes in the sand/But just make sure that you can afford it/No dirty tricks, or we’ll get deported/And though it would be such a wonderful thrill/To pay for these drinks with a counterfeit bill.” And she does some riffing, some scat. This is one of my personal favorite tracks. Perhaps the most interesting choice of songs on this album, and the one that initially drew my interest, is “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” Yes, the song from Grease. It’s one of that musical’s best songs, but one I don’t hear covered all that often. And obviously, this one is more recent than most of the songs she’s selected for this album. This version has a nice, late-night vibe, which works well. Certain lines might not have the same power as the Stockard Channing version from the movie (which is the recording most of us know best), but Mira Choquette does a really good job with this song, putting her own spin on it.

Things get hopping with the album’s second Cole Porter song, “What Is This Thing Called Love,” which has a delicious beat and features some good work on piano. Halfway through, we are treated to a lead on bass and then a brief drum solo. The band is seriously grooving here, and it feels like we’ve entered some great old club. Mira Choquette delivers more scat on this one, letting loose and delivering a lively performance. She then picks another song from more recent pop history, Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” a song from his 1985 LP In Square Circle (the same album that gave us “Part-Time Lover”). And though a more recent song, it still ranks among Stevie Wonder’s great compositions, and it’s the song that Mira Choquette and company began the recording process with. I’ve always found the bird sounds that occur throughout Stevie Wonder’s version to be rather annoying, and so I tend to prefer cover versions. Mira Choquette does a sweet job with it.  Then “Jump In Line” begins with drums. This is another fun one, and one with a very different vibe from the rest of the album. The rhythm, the style, her vocal delivery – all are unlike the rest of the album. This is a song we know mostly because of Harry Belafonte’s recording and of course its use in the movie Beetlejuice. These guys deliver a totally enjoyable rendition.

Another of the disc’s highlights is Mira Choquette’s rendition of “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” It is so moving and gorgeous and sad. She really digs into this song, living within it and delivering a passionate performance, one of need, of pain, expressing how she doesn’t want to give up. We hear that in the use of pauses and varying intensity of delivery. There is a wonderful rawness to the approach that adds to its effectiveness. The album then concludes with “The Old Country,” written by Nat Adderly and Curtis Lewis, and recorded by Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderly in the early 1960s. This is a song Mira Choquette also included on her first album, Something Cool. Both versions she has recorded are excellent, but I am partial to this new one, for it has a looser vibe. She delivers a seriously cool vocal performance here.

CD Track List

  1. No Moon At All
  2. Just One Of Those Things
  3. Love Crime
  4. There Are Worse Things I Could Do
  5. What Is This Thing Called Love
  6. Overjoyed
  7. Jump In The Line
  8. Ne Me Quitte Pas
  9. The Old Country

In Reel Time was released on May 19, 2023.