“My Favorite Things” by Ron Kaplan
Ron Kaplan, vocals; Smith Dobson, piano; Stan Poplin, bass; Steve Robertson, drums; Donny McCaslin Jr., Paul Contos, tenor saxophone.
On his appropriately titled album Kaplan sings 11 standards or jazz classics with flair and a lot of heart. Backed by a piano trio on seven selections and an expanded group on the others that includes either McCaslin or Contos on tenor, Kaplan wends his way through the popular material by adding a classy touch and a taste of soul. Kaplan's voice is smooth in the Mel Torme sense of the term, and he has a similar pinch of verve to add spice to the songs. Although Kaplan does not deviate substantially from the prescribed melody, his accompanying musicians do. The result is a very pleasant balance between melody and improvisation that gives the recording much of its appeal. For deviation, he sings alternate lyrics to Silvers "Song for My Father" that appear more appropriate than the more familiar version. Pianist Dobson takes the lead during the vocal breaks and stretches the tune's perimeters while Poplin and Robertson spur him on. When the tenor players enter, the pieces take on added dash.
Kaplan can be linked to the vocalist of the past who merged the jazz esthetic with the melodic popular element to produce music that appealed to both camps. His light-handed approach and easy singing style are qualities that make him a very likeable commodity. He has chosen to drive along a well-traveled road, yet he produces music that has you singing along with his lyrics or grooving with the instrumental parts. His direction cannot be faulted.
--by Frank Rubolino
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