On The Sunny Side Of Jazz
When it comes to young talent, vocalist Nikki Yanofsky's name is also on a lot of people's minds. Yanofsky, now a mere sixteen years of age, caused a stir with her 2006 performance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and continues to win converts with her super scatting abilities, killer vocal chops and enthusiastic delivery.
While Yanofsky has already been featured on an Ella Fitzgerald tribute album for Verve, as well as releasing her own live Ella...Of Thee I Swing (Universal, 2008), she is turning even more heads with Nikki (Decca, 2010), her studio debut. While jazz purists might bemoan the fact that Yanofsky performs as much radio-friendly pop as jazz on the album, she makes good on her early promise, delivering some well-polished arrangements of standards. "Take The 'A' Train" gives Yanofsky an opportunity to sing the virtues of Harlem and run down a list of her favorite New York spots and shows. "I Got Rhythm"with some explosive scattingand "God Bless The Child" also make it into the program, but "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," which borrows some sounds from an unlikely source, is the real winner here.
Bassist/musical director Rob Fahie arranged this ingenious rendition of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," with Led Zeppelin's "Fool In The Rain" woven into the song's fabric, and the results are spectacular. Drummer Richard Irwin kicks off the song with John Bonham's instantly recognizable groove, the horns then following suit with the well-known riff heard around the world on classic rock radio. Yanofsky briefly swoons over the band and, just when it seems like she might usurp Zeppelin singer Robert Plant's role, the band stops on a dime. When the music starts up again, Irwin's groove continues to drive the song in the same manner, and the "Fool In The Rain" riff works under the chords of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street." Pianist John Sadowy adds little touches of New Orleans, and the song moves between this feel and a double-time swing groove. Ron DiLauro contributes a fiery trumpet solo, and Yanofsky belts out the last chorus with some shouting horns along for the ride. This one is a mash-up made in heaventhat cloud-filled land of wonder above the sunny sky.
While "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" isn't a blues, and the idea of a dark mood hovering over a song of hope might seem counterproductive, magic can happen when a hazy blue aura is spread over this piece. Trumpeter Terence Blanchardanother New Orleans-born trumpet titanbrought together four of the finest vocalists in jazz for Let's Get Lost (Sony Classical, 2001). Blanchard brilliantly re-imagined eleven pieces by Jimmy McHugh, with the help of Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson, and the results are spectacular. An understated, mellow elegance threads throughout the entire album, and Wilson adds some darker undertones when she interprets "On The Sunny Side Of The Street."
Bassist Derek Nievergelt creates a moving line that pushes the song forward, while drummer Eric Harland keeps things simple. Wilson saunters over the rhythm section, as Blanchard inserts little asides into the song. Pianist Edward Simon comps when needed, but also manages to create some floating lines that just hover in the air. The prior song on the album is "Lost In A Fog," and that phrase also seems appropriate when describing this performance. Blanchard's soloing is passionate and bluesy, and the song left me wondering whether I really wanted to be "On The Sunny Side Of The Street," or if this was just a case of thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side.
Stay tuned for more Old, New, Borrowed and Blue.
Page 2, Nikki Yanofsky: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
Page 2, Terence Blanchard: Skip Bolen