Ron Kaplan has recorded four previous albums with differently stuctured groups on his own Kapland label in the wish of preserving the music of the Great American Songbook. On his latest, subtitled "The Ron Kaplan-Weber Iago Album," he's accompanied only by pianist Weber Iago on nine songs.
Kaplan, a California native, studied with pianist Smith Dobson and plays several instruments. He ran a successful busines in a non-musical field but decided to return in the mid-'80s. The inspiration for Saloon came from the first Bill Evans-Tony Bennett collaboration in 1975; the title best reflects the ambiance in which a voice-piano duet might be heard performing this venerated music.
The accompying quotes from Blue Note President Bruce Lundvall ("...superb voice") and Verve President Ron Goldstein (..."fine album") are quite accurate. Kaplan does have an accurate and soothing voice that's built for occasions like this. The album covers appropriate territory and Iago provides sympathetic support.
Saloon begins with two ballads, Ellington's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and Erwin Drake's "It Was A Very Good Year," which the singer notes he held off on recording for a few years so he could match the maturity of the lyrics. A medley of "'S Wonderful/I Got Rhythm" doesn't seem to go together, and "Alfie" seems like an appropriate entry, inasmuch as last year's film revival was a flop.
Kaplan also tackles two Jobim tunes, noting that Weber Iago is a native Brazilian. "Desafinado," the early bossa nova hit from Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd's early '60s album, is nice to hear, especially with Jon Hendricks' English lyrics ("Slighty Out of Tune"). On "Agua De Beber," a fine melody line suffers only from Kaplan's omission of the final letter in the title (which is noticeable to anyone who has listened incessantly to Gilberto and Jobim). Norman Gimbel's part-English lyrics ("...give the flower water to drink...") sound wimpy and don't add anything. Kaplan's additon of two ballads, Ann Ronnell's "Willow Weep for Me" and the Bricusse-Newley song "Who Can I Turn To," intended as an homage to Tony Bennett, work fine.
Personnel: Ron Kaplan: vocals; Weber Iago: piano.