Lorraine Feather: Dooji Wooji
Lorraine Feather's latest CD stands out from the swarm of new releases by singers because of her captivating, swinging vocals and witty lyrics, but there's a lot more to her appeal. Dooji Wooji blends many of her musical interests, starting with several instrumentals by Duke Ellington for which she wrote lyrics. These songs (composed between 1928 and 1939) were intended for an earlier release, but held up for reasons beyond her control. "Calistoga Bay is based upon the maestro's "Harlem Air Shaft and swings like mad, with Feather backed by a big band arranged by Bill Elliott, long time collaborator Shelly Berg on piano and a fine solo by trumpeter Willie Murillo. Feather recasts "Dooji Wooji" as the sensuous, bluesy "Sweet Honolulu, with Berg playing a steady boogie-woogie vamp and Grant Geissman's effective lap steel guitar blending with the brass and reeds of the octet.
The rapid-fire "Indiana Lana (adapted from "Jubilee Stomp ) is a hilarious tale of a female runner: "Once she started movin'/Couldn't hardly stop/She raced her brother's pickup truck/To the bait and tackle shop/The boys all found it funny/Till it hurt their pride/To see that squirt smoke/Everybody's ride." But one needs to hear Feather sing this particular song in person (typically in a duo date with Berg) to appreciate how difficult a song it is to perform. "Tryin' to Get Over (from "Doin' the Voom Voom, written in 1929 by Ellington and Bubber Miley) is a great opportunity to hear Feather and Berg as a duo. The pianist's stride chops provide the perfect support for her buoyant vocals in Berg's superb adaptation of Dick Hyman's earlier arrangement. Feather's lyrics are a scream: "Even when I turned into a swan/I spent a thousand tearful nights/With only Mittens and the big TV/That was a big TV/Pondering my future/Watching flicks where leading men of 56/Made love to chicks of 23.
But Feather is hardly one to concentrate exclusively on oldies. Her current collaborators know a thing or two about putting together memorable melodies that compliment her lyrics. It's hard not to gush about "Remembering to Breathe (with Elliott as composer and arranger), a graceful, sentimental ballad about the lifelong lessons that young ladies can learn while taking ballet. Berg and Eddie Arkin jointly wrote the music for "Cicada Time, a snappy number about the seventeen year cycle between appearance by the noisy insects. Arkin wrote and arranged the hip "I Know the Way to Brooklyn, in which Feather will be able to cure your worst case of blues. With an assist by violinist Charlie Bisharat, her infectious singing caught my ear. Sample lyrics: "I don't know the way to San Jose/Never seen the birds in Bodega Bay/I got lost for a day in downtown L.A./But I know the way to Brooklyn. Feather's warmth especially comes across in Russ Ferrante's sensuous bossa nova "On the Esplanade. Her riotous sense of irony in the swinging "Shameful ("You're dead awake/And flat on your back, when/Stray thoughts make a sneak attack/And they're shameful. ) will hit home with many listeners who have suffered from backstabbing colleagues climbing the corporate ladder.
I've already found myself returning to Lorraine Feather's Dooji Wooji on many occasions. The combination of Feather's enchanting vocals, her intelligent, entertaining lyrics and the contributions of her arrangers and musicians make Dooji Wooji not only a shoo-in for my top ten list for 2005, but also a CD that will easily stand the test of time.
Track listing: 1. Calistoga Bay; 2. Cicada Time; 3. Remembering to Breathe; 4. I Know the Way to Brooklyn; 5. On the Esplanade; 6. Sweet Honolulu; 7. Once Bitten; 8. A Ramble Through the Park; 9. Indiana Lana; 10. Shameful; 11. Tryin' to Get Over; 12. Happy You Were Here
Personnel: Lorraine Feather: vocals/lyrics; Bill Elliott: arranger/composer/piano; Eddie Arkin: arranger/composer; Shelly Berg; piano/arranger/ composer; Russell Ferrante: piano/arranger/composer; Dave Carpenter: bass; Grant Geissman: guitar/lap steel guitar; Gregg Field: drums; Bill Liston: alto sax/clarinet; Brian Scanlon: alto sax; Jay Mason alto sax/tenor sax/baritone sax/clarinet; Glen Berger: tenor sax; Jeff Driskill: alto sax/clarinet/tenor sax/baritone sax; Gary Foster: clarinet; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet; Darrel Gardner: trumpet; Willie Murillo: trumpet; Bruce Otto: trombone; Charlie Morillas: trombone; Andy Martin: trombone; Charlie Bisharat: violin