Jay Patten and the Swing Noir Orchestra: All in Blue Time (2003)
For comparison's sake, think of Sinatra with Billy May or Nelson Riddle. Saxophonist/vocalist/guitarist Jay Patten has put together an impressive ensemble of Nashville-area musicians and engaged the services of a top-flight arranger in longtime friend Jeff Steinberg to brighten All in Blue Time, Patten's fifth album under his own name and first with a big band. A further asset is the presence on four tracks of the renowned clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, who continues to play marvelously at age eighty.
The downside, of course, is that Patten's no Sinatra. A more apt correlation here would be with John Pizzarelli or any number of cabaret-style singers (fill in the blank). Still, he's not bad, enunciating clearly, singing on key and swinging nicely when the occasion demands. The problem here is that I'd rather hear a band – almost any band – than a vocalist, no matter how splendid his or her resumé. Sinatra was an exception, but there haven't been many others (no, Tony Bennett isn't on the short list). Of the sixteen selections on All in Blue Time, fourteen are vocals, far above my accepted level of tolerance, which usually dictates no more than two or three on any big-band album.
DeFranco solos – too briefly, one might observe – on one of the instrumentals, "Melancholy Serenade" (which some may recognize as comedian Jackie Gleason's theme), as well as on "It's Funny to Everyone But Me," "Those Were the Days" and the title tune. Patten's alto sax is heard on several numbers, mostly playing the melody, and there are concise comments along the way by Steinberg, organist Tom Reynolds and saxophonist Denis Solee.
Patten wrote seven of the songs and co-authored four others, and they're not bad either, albeit a notch or two below "Our Day Will Come," "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" or the Rodgers and Hart classic, "I Wish I Were in Love Again." Patten and the band are in a playful mood and have a lot of fun with his tongue-in-cheek closer, "Forget About It."
The orchestra's name alludes to the fact that Patten was trying to "capture the romance and mystery so closely identified with the 'film noir' period." The listener will have to ascertain the success of that plan for himself (or herself). What can be said is that the band is quite good and that Steinberg's charts are excellent, lending the album much of its liveliness and allure. Patten couldn't have asked for a better setting in which to perform. A charismatic session for those who don't mind seeing the singer take the lead while the band plays a supporting role.
Contact: Flamingo Records, 6033 Sherwood Drive, Nashville, TN 37215. www.jaypatten.com
Track Listing: Gang of Angels; Our Day Will Come; Saxophone; Melancholy Serenade; It?s Funny to Everyone But Me; Until the Real Thing Comes Along; Blue; I Could Have Danced All Night; Flight from South Jersey; Dance in Your Dreams; Far Away Places; Somewhere in the Night (Theme from Naked City ); Those Were the Days; All in Blue Time; I Wish I Were in Love Again; Forget About It (54:05).
Personnel: Jay Patten, alto, tenor sax, guitar, vocals; Cole Burgess, Denis Solee, Ricardo Barzini, J.M. Pellecchia, reeds; Mike Haynes, George Tidwell, ?Bix? Romano, trumpet; Chris McDonald, Barry Green, Dennis Good, trombone; Jeff Steinberg, piano, arranger; Tom Reynolds, piano, organ; Giavonni Mele, guitar; Roger Spencer, Chris Enghauser (8, 10), bass; Jim White, drums. String section (5-7, 10, 12, 14, 15) -- David Davidson, David Angell, violin; James Grosjean, viola; John Catchings, Carole Rabinowitz, cello.
Record Label: Flamingo