How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
After recording a lively and well-received series of albums on GRP and then RCA Victor, New York Voices now is recording on Concord. Consistent with that label's tradition for straight-ahead jazz and with the New York Voices' animated interpretations of standardsas well as unpredictable projects like the songs of Paul Simon Sing! Sing! Sing! merges both parties' interests to offer an album of well-arranged swing tunes in a big band format.
The fact that New York Voices member Darmon Meader arranged most of the tunes contributes in no small part to the album's success. As a reed player, Meader understands the exigencies of an engaging band presence. As one of the singers, he understands the harmonic movement among the voices that contains broadly chorded richness and shrewd note placement. In fact, Meader solos on tenor sax several times throughout Sing! Sing! Sing! and then he slips into the vocal lead of a few of the songs like "Cloudburst."
Beyond the arrangements, though, New York Voices infuses the tunes with their own personalities, a sigh here or a swooping of tone there. While the group recalls big band vocal quartets, particularly on tunes like "Sing Sing Sing," their frame of reference is wider than that. With "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," they include jump tunes of Louis Jordan, while "Orange Colored Sky" obtains its colors from the reassurance and unexpected punch of Nat Cole. "Cloudburst" covers the early vocalese of Jon Hendricks, and then songs like "Stardust" and "Early Autumn" reveal New York Voices' mastery of ballads as well.
Once a first listen-through gives an overview of the CD's spirit, a second hearing highlights the details contained within the arrangements and within the stylistic characteristics of the singers. "I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me" alternates the singers for solo development of the melody through the first chorus before they dissolve into four-part variations that simulate a big band arrangement. An entertaining reed-and-muted-trumpet intro sets up the mood, and the motive, of "Bli Blip" with the jabbing of the two-note onomatopoetic assertion that carries through the song. Beyond that, the singers extend the musical expression of the song's pretended silliness with seamless scatting that's a lead-in to the saxophone solo that follows. Even minor touches like the "shouted" male responses to the "chicks'" complaints on "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" or one of the "chick's" "ee-oooo" at the end of the song add flourishes of humor that expand upon the lyrics.
The band's drive and the excellence of the instrumentalists' solos in the middle of the tracks (like Marvin Stamm's and Jay Ashby's on "Don't Be That Way") not only add significantly to the success of the album. Those characteristics also provide further evidence that everyone involved in this album had fun while it was being recorded.
Always performing at a high level of energy while empathetically listening to the other members of the group for ideas and harmonic cues, New York Voices' Sing! Sing! Sing! creates another entertaining avenue for their recording interests while it extends their reputation as one of the finest vocal groups singing jazz today.
Track Listing: Sing Sing Sing, I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me, Smack Dab In The Middle, Early Autumn, Bli Blip, Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Save Your Love For Me, Orange Colored Sky, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Cloudburst, Stardust, Don't Be That Way, In A Mellow Tone, I'll Be Seeing You
Personnel: New York Voices: Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan, Kim Nazarian- vocal; Darmon Meader- vocal, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Additional Musicians: Lawrence Feldman- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet; Bobby Porcelli- alto saxophone, flute; Donny McCaslin- tenor saxophone, flute; Doug Lawrence- tenor saxophone; Kenny Berger- baritone saxophone; Roger Rosenberg- baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Craig Johnson, Barry Danielian, Greg Ruvolo, Marvin Stamm- trumpet & flugelhorn; Randy Andos, Larry Farrell, Jay Ashby- trombone; Dave Taylor- bass trombone; Andy Ezrin- piano; Paul Nowinski- bass; Marcello Pellitteri, Ben Wittman- drums; John "Bucky" Pizzarelli- guitar.