Lawrence Lebo: Rhythm and Roots
The two middle tunes, the Arlen/Mercer "Accent-u-ate the Positive" and Louis Armstrong's "I Want A Butter and Egg Man" (both reprised on Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 2) are period pieces delivered with an intelligent wink and nod to both the past a future. Lebo's voice possesses the necessary peculiarity to make it both interesting and compelling. This brief whiff of a disc presents plenty of evidence that more Lebo need be heard.
Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 2
On the Air Records
The opening "Was That Love" almost sounds as if Lebo is going standard and producing just one more jazz recording. John Nau's piano is quite fine but where are those cool strings from the first recording. Well, Lebo doesn't hold out long before delivering. "You're My Thrill" features David Strother's sharp violin and Cheryl Saunder's perfectly placed acoustic guitar. No Django Reinhardt here, Saunder's playing is all American Eddie Lang shot into the 21st century. Lebo's own "It's not the First Time" is a swing blues acoustically propelled by husband/bassist Denny Croy and Saunders, seasoned with Strother's piquant Joe Venuti fiddle.
"I Want A Butter and Egg Man" reappears in a delightfully stripped down fashion that swings more freely than Lebo's previous interpretation, again because of the Croy/Saunders/Strother triumvirate. The antique remains with the song, but is well dusted off. The same effect is effected on a second rendition of "Accent-u-ate the Positive" where Croy, Saunders, Strother, and Lebo are sonically well separated in a scrubbed clean treatment of the song. Lebo serves Patsy Cline well with a boffo- splendid "Walking After Midnight." Again, performed as a trio backing the singer, Lebo establishes a "less is more" direction for her performance compared with Volume 1.
Lebo betrays her scat chops by introducing the sacred jazz relic "How High The Moon" with saxophonist Charlie Parker's famous re-imagining of the tune, "Ornithology." Lebo interpolates "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" deftly into the song in an arrangement that is simply over the top. There is a definite trend occurring between the first two volumes of Don't Call Her Larry, tending toward simpler, more spacious arrangements that retain the light, swinging momentum of larger bands.
But Lebo is not done yet. She closes Volume 2 with searing electric blues replete with horns and Nick Kirgo's slashing electric guitar. "(I'm Your) Christmas Present, Baby" is seriously sexy and a great indication of Lebo's original writing. The disc ends with a stomping "It's Not The First Time" that offers the a brilliant schizophrenic/creative juxtaposition of the two visions of the singer. Bravo!
Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 3: American Roots
On the Air Records
Save for the concluding two songs on Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 2, Lebo has been heading in a reductionist direction musically. On Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 3: American Roots she reaches minimalist nirvana with Denny Croy providing full-toned, perfect-time bass strumming. The subtitle shows a systematic approach Lebo takes toward presenting American music, specifically the blues, jazz, folk, and western swing, all color-coded on the jewel case back. She is a modern JS Bach, a musical taxonomist defining the genera of American music.
Lebo begins with the blues (though she classifies this as "jazz"), reprising "On Time" from Volume 1. The song here is a much different animal that on Volume 1. Lebo's blues singing is perfectly presented and Croy's bass is in tune with it. The pair achieve the same with a third performance of Lebo's "It's Not The First Time." While keeping the proceedings small, Lebo does expand things on her western swing tunes, "Cowboy Swinging Boogie Woogie" and "A Promise I Can Keep" with the inclusion of Rick Cuna's lap steel guitar and Mike Acosta's saxophones on the former, and Tony Mandraccia's guitar and Graig Fundyga's vibes on the latter.
The sole folk song here is Lebo's "Rose, Rose" sharing influences from the Civil War, Appalachia and the wide West. Bass, guitar and dobro (Rick Cunha) and accordion (Phil Parlapiano) paint a 19th century American panorama in 21st century colors. "Lawrence's Working Girl Blues" is the professional perspective contrast to Terrance Howard's character, DJay, in the movie theme "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle and Flow (Paramount, 2005). Accordion, bass, and voice present the contrast starkly.