Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits have been prominent figures in the world of pop since their emergence in the mid-1970s. While the folksy Jones has had an eclectic career, her shrill vocals have likely turned off as many listeners as those who enjoy her work, though her early 1990s CD Pop Pop
(Geffen, 1991) showed that she was adventurous enough to tackle standards. Waits emerged looking like a denizen of Skid Row and sounded like one as well, particularly to those exposed to him during his puzzling tour as an opening solo act for Frank Zappa in 1974. But he had his moment in a more mainstream setting, singing a duet with country vocalist Crystal Gayle on a film soundtrack.
Though it has been decades since the two artists were involved, they agreed to an amicable reunion for an improbable tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. The singers will turn a few heads with their laudable, engaging duets of the eleven standards recorded in 1956 by Fitzgerald and Armstrong for Verve. "Can't We Be Friends" really swings, while "They Can't Take That Away" is humorous, particularly when Waits ad libs, "They ain't gonna send me back there, no!" One shortcoming is Chris Botti's rather unconvincing attempt to simulate Satchmo's trumpet style. While this CD will never replace the original Ella & Louis, it is a heartfelt salute to two giants of jazz and popular music. The excellent rhythm section includes the French/Vietnamese pianist Nam DePlum, Haitian bassist Bill S. Tuppé and British drummer Justin Thyme.
Personnel: Rickie Lee Jones: vocals; Tom Waits: vocals; Chris Botti: trumpet; Nam DePlum: piano; Bill S. Tuppé: bass;
Justin Thyme: drums.