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From the Inside Out

Sing it Out to Swing it Out!

By Published: July 27, 2010
Our protagonist(s)—whoever he is / whoever they are—roll up to "Truth Seekin'" in a jitterbugging jalopy, blasting out clunky little horns that sing along with its engine, cruising in low fidelity on soft and warm funky drums that sound like brushes on cardboard. This set's minimalist facade crumbles just once, to reveal a happily busy percussion break in "Thinkin' of Eva."

The Story Teller doesn't give you an awful lot to go on and seems to leave most of the story blank, for you to fill in for yourself.

Janiva Magness

The Devil is an Angel Too

Alligator Records

2010

Just one listen to The Devil is an Angel Too, Janiva Magness' ninth album and second for Chicago's venerated blues label Alligator, immediately reveals why she's the Blues Music Awards' reigning "Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year" and "B.B. King
B.B. King
B.B. King
b.1925
guitar, electric
Entertainer of the Year" (only the second female to cop the "Entertainer" honor—Koko Taylor
Koko Taylor
Koko Taylor
1935 - 2009
vocalist
was the first).

For sure, Magness knows about the blues. Once a foster child deemed "at risk," Magness' musical talents illuminated her life's path; she dedicates this release "to all Foster Youth and Alumni" and her liner notes include links to several online organizations devoted to this same cause. She's also serving for her fourth consecutive year as national spokesperson for Casey Family Programs, which promotes National Foster Care Month.

Fronting a band co-led by multi-instrumentalists David Darling
David Darling
b.1941
(founder and leader of the Boxing Ghandis) and her husband Jeff Turmes, Magness' cyclone of a voice sometimes seems to echo Janis Joplin's vocal ghost, swinging all the way from her heels to belt out the country-fried "Walkin' in the Sun," and twirling like a banshee through this gritty, lowdown title track.

Magness (or somebody) sure knows how to pick her cover versions. They re-craft and re-energize "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," popularized by Graham Parker during his prime with The Rumour, into a contemporary blues, guitars sawing into the melody and drums hammering the pieces back together, and the throaty edge to her voice steeped in back-road whiskey and country tobacco, husky whispers of Janis's wild-child wailing.

She also slow grinds "I Want to Do Everything For You" (by Joe Tex) into a sexy and swivel-hipped blues, then snarls and moans the woman left behind blues in "Homewrecker" from the witheringly acid pen of Nick Lowe, a steamrolling arrangement which Magness' band absolutely flattens.

In the context of Magness' upbringing and this album's dedication, lines such as "It's a new life for me" help this slow-burning version of "I'm Feelin' Good" resonate with deep emotional power.

Francis Albert Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim

The Complete Reprise Recordings

Concord Records

2010

Finally.

The Complete Reprise Recordings compiles every tune—all 20—that America's supreme vocalist recorded with Brazil's preeminent composer during their legendary late 1960s summits. The first ten comprise the famous, fantastic Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim album arranged and orchestrated by Claus Ogermann, released by Reprise in 1967. Sinatra and Jobim reconvened two years later, with Eumir Deodato
Eumir Deodato
Eumir Deodato
b.1942
keyboard
replacing Ogerman as arranger, to record 10 more tunes for a second Sinatra-Jobim album that the Chairman withdrew from the market as soon as it was shipped (we'll explain why). Seven of those tunes later appeared as the first side of Sinatra & Company, released by Reprise in 1971; this new compilation unveils the other three—"Bonita," "Desafinado (Off Key)" and "The Song of the Sabia"—for the first time.

Few moments in music are more beautiful and magical than the softly strummed guitar, sighing horns and whispered drums that introduce you to "The Girl From Ipanema," and "Change Partners" stands among Sinatra's best Irving Berlin interpretations. But unless you've experienced the magic and wonder of that first Sinatra/Jobim release, it is almost impossible to explain in words how beautifully its music floats and sways. Since many such words have already been written, we can concentrate on the newly released music instead.

Deodato contributes several fantastic arrangements. He mixes the principals' wordless vocals into the rhythm track of "Drinking Water (Agua de Beber)," bouncing them across the stereo channels, and also serves up the funkiest half-gospel, half-Brazilian piano with which Sinatra ever recorded. Deodato casts Sinatra's voice upon a simply perfect "Wave," with calling acoustic guitars and strings, answering flutes, and Sinatra snuggling down deep in his register with supreme control (and even some extracurricular funky bass/drum "four" play in the fade). Jobim, Deodato and Sinatra vocally and instrumentally illuminate "Someone to Light Up My Life" into a polished, golden glow. That one really should have been a hit.


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