In his later years, Frank Sinatra commented that there were "only three saloon singers left": himself, Mel Torme and Tony Bennett. But today, LM Pagano is exactly that: a saloon singer.
Pagano is a young woman with a very soft voice. Her delivery includes heaping teaspoons of sass, rather than the sultriness of Julie London. Her inability to sustain a long note at the end of a phrase adds to her charm.
The selection of songs on Azalea, Pagano's debut on Bop City, is reminiscent of Blossom Dearie's Verve albums of the 1950s. So too is the instrumention behind Ms. Pagano: guitar, piano, bass and drums. Guitarist Larry Koonse provides most of the improvisation here, while the rhythm section (Henry Spurgeon, Kevin Axt and Kendall Kay) supports his work as well as hers. However, the playing is not to the level Ms. Dearie's records provide.
Every song is romantic. Count Basie's "Corner Pocket" and Duke Ellington's "Azalea" highlight the slower melodies, while "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and "This Can't Be Love" are among the upbeat and lively selections.
Based on this album, LM Pagano is the most exciting new singer since Dena DeRose.
Personnel: LM Pagano, vocals;
Larry Koonse, guitar;
Henry Spurgeon, piano;
Kevin Axt, bass;
Kendall Kay, drums.