Arbors Records: Retromania-At the Jazz Bakery, Easy As It Gets

Ken Dryden By

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Dave Frishberg
Retromania: At the Jazz Bakery
Arbors Records

John Sheridan's Dream Band
Easy As It Gets
Arbors Records

The Arbors label has picked up the slack by signing a number of mainstream jazz artists over the past decade. Pianists seem to be favorites of producers Mat and Rachel Domber, recording them in all kinds of settings from solo outings to big bands. The two titles here include irrepressible singer/composer Dave Frishberg and former Jim Cullum sideman John Sheridan leading an octet with vocals by Becky Kilgore (who has recorded a few sessions with Frishberg, too.).

Long time fans of Dave Frishberg will find a few new songs in this collection, though most of the material on this live recording has been a part of his repertoire for some time. A talented pianist, with a charming nasal vocal style, Frishberg played with a number of greats during the years he lived in New York, though he is still best appreciated in an unaccompanied live setting, singing and playing his amusing originals. This collection from an extended 2005 gig at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles includes several of his best known songs: the zany blues "Can't Take You Nowhere (based upon Tiny Kahn's "TNT ), "Zoot Walks In (a vocal tribute to the late saxophonist, Frishberg putting words to Sims' "The Red Door ) and the sidesplitting "My Attorney Bernie ; a series of nostalgic songs that reveal the pianist's obvious love of baseball, some of which were written for a musical that never came to fruition; plus new material like the striding "Who Do You Think You Are, Jack Dempsey? . What is surprising is that this marks his first recording of "Listen Here , a moving ballad he wrote for a Mary Tyler Moore television special, which has been performed and recorded by a number of jazz vocalists. Even though much of the music is familiar, Frishberg adds some new instrumental touches to keep his shtick fresh.

Since departing from the Jim Cullum Jazz Band after serving as its pianist for an extended period, John Sheridan has enjoyed numerous opportunities to record as a leader for Arbors. A fine player who is equally comfortable playing a number of different styles, Sheridan's Dream Band is a swinging octet that includes cornetist Randy Reinhart, trombonist Russ Phillips, clarinetist Ron Hockett, tenor saxophonist Scott Robinson, bassist Phil Flanigan and drummer Joe Ascione. The leader spreads the solos among his musicians, keeping them fairly short, while keeping up a good deal of interplay in his charts.

Aside from Sheridan's own gently swinging "Easy As It Gets and a gliding, thoughtfully arranged interpretation of Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care , most of the CD consists of once popular or unjustly obscure songs not recorded very often in recent memory. Becky Kilgore, an always delightful, right-on-the-money vocalist, is heard on eight tracks, including "Spring Cleaning (Getting Ready For Love) , Alec Wilder's sentimental ballad "It's So Peaceful in the Country and the dreamy waltz "Dedicated to You . Sheridan is modest about his vocal in "You Lucky People, You , but he has a pleasant voice that fits this vehicle written for Bing Crosby in the film Road to Zanzibar. This upbeat session will have great appeal to fans of mainstream jazz.

Tracks and Personnel

Retromania: At the Jazz Bakery

Tracks: Can't Take You Nowhere; Useless Waltz; Zoot Walks In; Who Do You Think You Are, Jack Dempsey?; Walkin' On Wall Street; My Attorney Bernie; Van Lingle Mungo; Dodger Blue; The Dear Departed Past; The Catbird Seat; Play Ball; Matty; The Wife And The Kid; You'd Rather Have The Blues; Eloise; Gotta Get Me Some ZZZ; Listen Here.

Personnel: Dave Frishberg: piano, vocals.

Easy As It Gets

Tracks: Devil May Care; Easy As It Gets; Spring Cleaning (Getting Ready For Love); Morning Glory; You Leave Me Breathless; Cherry; It's So Peaceful In The Country; You Lucky People, You; The Gypsy; Someone Like You; When We're Alone (Penthouse Serenade); You Do Something To Me; Me, Myself And I (Are All In Love With You); Dedicated To You; I'm Sitting On Top Of The World.

Personnel: John Sheridan: vocals, piano; Rebecca Kilgore: vocals; Bob Leary: guitar; Ron Hockett: clarinet; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone; Randy Reinhart: cornet; Russ Phillips: trombone; Phil Flanigan: bass; Joe Ascione; drums.


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