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Vocalist Judy Philbin and guitarist Adam Levine explore the close confines of the jazz vocals-guitar duo. From a production point of view the complexity lies less in the sonic alchemy that jazz is and more in the proper selection of songs to perform. A third of the songs are original compositions, two by Philbin alone and two by Philbin and Levine. The remaining two-thirds are from as early as Irving Mills' "Moonglow" (1933) and as late as Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," with the majority of the music being earlier than later. With all duos and duets, there is alway the daunting "no place to hid" environment that requires performance levels above more elaborate ensembles.
When treated appropriately, a duo performance like that of Philbin and Levine produces a recording, at once, that is warm and intimate. The pair easily accomplishes this with their compelling mixture of popular standards and originals. A "Moonglow" as familiar as your grandparent's living room and a "Skylark" so perfectly balanced bookend the original "Django's Delight," a clever song that quotes Dizzy Gillespie
's "Salt Peanuts" before revving up into a Le Hot Club de France stroll down the Left Bank. Philbin's voice is no nonsense, pliable and studied, easily slipping from the contemporary- folk "Keeping it Simple" into a period setting of "The Nearness of You.."
Standout, over-the-top is a plaintively authentic reading of "Besame Mucho." Levine summons that low Latin guitar and Philbin sings in the original Spanish. Plainly, this performance is so close it is fragrant with Spring humidity and the evening dinner. Oklahoma's "Surry with the Fringe on Top" bounces with mirth and fun, Philbin navigating R&H's modulations so that the song melds well with those surrounding it. As a total program, Keeping it Simple works well on every level, hitting all of the highpoints making it a very enjoyable disc.
Track Listing: A Wink and a Smile; Moonglow; Django’s Delight; Skylark; Keeping it
Simple; Nearness of You; Besame Mucho; Surry with the Fringe on Top;
Nova; Blue Bayou; Why Do Fools Fall in Love; Don’t be Easy On Me.
Personnel: Judy Philbin: vocals; Adam Levine: guitar.