Los Angeles-native pianist/singer/composer John Proulx possesses the most thrillingly androgynous voice since Chet Baker whispered "My Funny Valentine. The comparison cannot stop there. Both Baker and Proulx nominally hail from the Midwest (Baker from Oklahoma, Proulx from Michigan). Both men sing with a vibrato-less high tenor; and both men gravitated to the same corner of the American musical canon.
But there is where the similarities end. To dispense with the necessary Chet Baker comparisons from the get go, John Proulx is light years ahead of Baker as an expressive singer, and his classically trained pianism permits him to be a superior musician and composer.
Proulx's debut recording, Moon and Sand, is part of MaxJazz's vocal piano series, whose previous releases have included Dena DeRose's A Walk in the Park (2005) and Patti Wicks' Love Locked Out (2003). Veteran bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera join Proulx for this recital.
What's most striking up front is the overt expressiveness of Proulx's voice. It is a pretty instrument, in the same way as the late Bobby Short's and Jimmy Scott's voices. It is a purely distilled spirit able to convey all emotions in the same way that stem cells convey all subsequent cell types, fundamental and basic. This element is best expressed on the disc's slower ballads, such as "Moon and Sand, "Alice in Wonderland, and the Proulx compositions "My Love for You and "Stuck in a Dream with Me (the ostensible redux for Baker's "Deep in a Dream ).
Proulx's pianism is best heard on up-tempo pieces like "I've Never Been In Love Before and "You'd be so Nice To come Home to. His playing shines on these faster pieces, particularly during the bright solo sections. A superb recital by any name.
Personnel: John Proulx: piano, voice; Chuck Berghofer: bass, Joe LaBarbera: drums.