Calabria Foti hits one out of the park with A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening.
In the same rich, sublime tradition of her past efforts, Foti has selected ten lush and timeless tunes that make for the perfect crossover CD for both the Jazz and Easy Listening markets.
As we first chewed past the shrink wrap, we were- based on Foti’s earlier performances- prepared to be delighted. As we could have predicted, A Lovely Way To Spend An
They threw some bucks at this one. One side of the 8-panel insert is a picture of the delectable and toothsome Mizz F. On the other, liner notes written by Herself, giving us insight as to why she selected the songs and- as important- credits to those musicians that contributed to the tracks.
The charts were arranged by Calabria Foti, Matt Harris, Bob McChesney and bassist Trey Henry. Miss Foti, a First Call string player in Los Angeles, brought an
instrumentalist's sensitivity to the music in a way that shows respect for the lyrics. The charts, in other words, enhance the story. As the principal arranger, she could tailor them to compliment her impeccable phrasing; her unique reading of the tunes.
Particularly noteworthy to this reviewer:
Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow. A tune by Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh that inexplicably never reached Standards stature is presented as a
light bossa nova. Larry Koonse's guitar featured. Nicely sets the tone for the CD. The chart doesn't so much end as it evanesces like an early morning sea fog after the sunrise.
The Touch Of Your Lips. Swinging, soto voce toe-tapper, this Ray Noble opus gives Calabria some room to get some inventive, subdued scatting over the comp by Matt Harris (p), Larry Koonse (g), Trey Henry (b) and Dick Weller (d). Trey Henry's brilliant solo could stand alone.
Do It Again. The way God and maybe George Gershwin meant it to be presented. Slow. Languorous. Sexy. Warning to trombonists: McChesney's extended solo may cause severe self-doubt and episodic bouts of black despair.
I Wanna Be Loved. Just Matt Harris' electric piano and Calabria. The first eight bars, a heart-wrenching a capella, is Goosebump City. She presents the seldom-heard and lovely verse after the first chorus. This reading evokes a Three O’clock in the morning picture of the two of them after most everyone's gone home. The bartender washing the last of his glasses. Somebody sweeping up. And just the two of them are laying down the final tune of the night, but we get the feeling that it's been one of those magical sets in which they could willingly go on making music forever.
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening pulls the stops out. Gorgeous string charts and trombone solo by Bob McChesney. Exquisite ensemble work from the section. Wisely letting the story unfold, Calabria presents the verse before the chorus. This is one of those tunes that begs one to wonder if, at the moment after it was finished, Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh didn't look at one another, smiling, and say, "This is going to be a Standard. Guaranteed."
Calabria Foti's offering is, on the one hand, a welcome return to a time when class and elegance were celebrated, if not required. On the other, one hopes that this CD might reawaken and restore the concept that, as musicians, our function is to present and enhance the inherent beauty of the music as conceived by the composers and lyricists.
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening is a welcome departure from the modal, atonal, and formless wails and squeaks that some mistakenly, I believe, call jazz. You'll not hear the electric bass and drums presented as solo instruments. You'll not hear 47 identical major sixth arpeggios in a row on the soprano sax. You will, however, hear 10 standards; torchy, romantic, compelling, and as welcome and as familiar as your favorite slippers. Foti, McChesney et al have collaborated on a collection that will enhance and enrich your music library. They've done so with respect, taste, exquisite musicianship, and even reverence for the beauty of the words and music. A true synergism, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts.
In preparing this review, I tracked it with a couple of pals; Las Vegas musicians and jazzers that, like me, remember FDR and the sounds of the times. Halfway through When Lights Are Low, one of them turned and said, "This just may be the best CD out there right now..." I agreed with him and I'm betting that you will, too.
Jane Ira Bloom
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