Rosemary Clooney / Count Basie Orchestra: At Long Last
An early front–runner in the race for most appropriate album title — and most enchanting Jazz/pop album — of the year. If ever there were a symbiotic relationship, this has to be it. Rosie Clooney’s pared–down, smooth–as–syrup vocals and the Basie orchestra’s impetuous brass, reeds and rhythm merge together like bread and butter, ham and eggs, hand and glove. The wonder is that no one thought of it before. But better late than never. The Basie band, which has its own rich legacy of acclaimed vocalists (Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams) and has backed such legends as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, is perfectly comfortable in its supporting role, while Rosie sounds as though she’d been singing along with Basie for years. The choice of songs — most of them taken from the Great American Songbook — is impeccable, as are the even–tempered charts by Rosie’s longtime accompanist, John Oddo, Allyn Ferguson and Peter Matz. Let’s face it, one can’t wander far astray with material that includes Cahn/Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love,” Ann Ronell’s “Willow Weep for Me,” Gershwin’s “The Man That Got Away” and “I Got Rhythm,” Warren/Dubin’s “Lullaby of Broadway,” Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg’s “Old Devil Moon,” Lane/Ralph Freed’s “How About You” (a duet with Barry Manilow) and such other winners as “Seems Like Old Times,” “Gypsy in My Soul,” “Everything Happens to Me,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.” Completing the program are Dave Frishberg’s humorous “I Want to Be a Sideman,” Fred Astaire’s “If Swing Goes I Go Too” (with a wonderful Basie–style piano intro by Oddo, who also plays on the opening number, “Just in Time”) and a tune by Rosie’s brother, Nick Clooney, “It Just Happened to Happen to Me.” Of more than passing interest are the introduction and opening verse to “I Got Rhythm,” replayed from a Clooney demo vocal circa 1946 (when Rosie was in her teens, singing with sister Betty, before she snared the brass ring with “Come on a’ My House,” “Hey There” and other mega–hits). Even in ’46 Rosie was pretty good, and since then has become, in the opinion of many listeners around the world, one of the foremost interpreters of American popular songs, on a par with Frank, Ella, Tony, Mel, Judy, Bing and others whose first name says it all. She’s Rosie, and in her 70s she remains tasteful and terrific, even more so alongside the marvelous Basie orchestra. I hope the Grammy Awards voters are listening closely.
Track listing: Just in Time; Like Someone in Love; Willow Weep for Me; Lullaby of Broadway; Old Devil Moon; Everything Happens to Me; I Want to Be a Sideman; In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; How About You; The Man That Got Away; Seems Like Old Times; Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; It Just Happened to Happen to Me; I Got Rhythm; The Gypsy in My Soul; If Swing Goes I Go Too (61:54).
Rosemary Clooney, vocals, with the Count Basie Orchestra (Grover Mitchell, director; Michael Williams, Scotty Barnhart, Shawn Edmonds, Bob Ojeda, trumpets; David Klein, Clarence Banks, Alvin Walker II, trombone; William Hughes, bass trombone; John Kelson, alto sax, flute; Brad Leali, alto sax; Kenny Hing, tenor sax, clarinet; Doug Miller, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; John Williams, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Terence Conley, piano; John Oddo, piano (1, 3, 5