Termed a “debut” album, Bearcat
features vocalist Ya Ya Fornier, veteran saxophonist David Murray, and bassist Jaribu Shahid, along with a score of guest musicians. Though this album represents the first recording venture for Fornier, wife of the late Vernel Fornier, it is certainly not the first time Ya Ya has been around recording, which may have encouraged her to take this leap late in an already jazz-infused life.
A sentimental mix of standards and originals, Fornier's CD is dubbed a tribute album dedicated to Sandy Jordan, and, it seems, recorded in honor of the jazz lifestyle, many of the songs depicting late-night sessions, late-night shows, and late-night friendships.
On such pieces as “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” by Duke Ellington and his own swinging “Live the Life,” Murray shows himself a soulful, if somewhat conventional, soloist, and the rest of the musicians provide solid ground for Ya Ya Fornier’s dedicated, lounge singer styling. Fornier’s heartfelt, half-spoken, swingin’-hip vocals skate just above the parodic, leaving the whole endeavor sounding remarkably like the soundtrack to a small town.
Which, in an odd way, has its appeal. Tracks like the already mentioned “Live the Life” and the relatively adventurous “Chant de le Montagne” (which quotes passages from the Q’uran) raise images of dilapidated gas stations, long evenings, and nights spent in a lonely bar listening to the town’s only live singer. This said, Ya Ya Fornier will have to provide more dynamic singing, and a greater range of interpretation to accomplish more than this document of her friendships and personal love of jazz.