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122

Michael Feinstein: Big City Rhythms

Jim Santella By

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What do Michael Feinstein and Maynard Ferguson have in common? They’re both prolific (Feinstein has 18 albums now). Both have an appreciation for popular songs and both employ distinctive sounds. Feinstein’s vocal quality is smooth, shallow and friendly, while Ferguson’s thin, high-pitched trumpet acrobatics are legendary. Neither artist makes full use of music overtones, preferring instead to do without a full, rich, resonant tone. Both have the initials M.F. But that’s where the similarities end.

Feinstein’s strength lies in his interpretation of the Great American Songbook and the ease with which he convinces. It can put tears in your eyes or make you want a great big hug. His romantic aura oozes in massive quantities on "The Very Thought of You" and "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else." The presentation changes, however, on "Ev’rything You Want is Here," "Love Is Nothin’ But a Racket" and "Johnny One Note." On these more forceful numbers the singer attempts a Frank Sinatra-like delivery that works against the grain. The phrase, "He was in a class by himself, by gum!" is delivered with force, but it just does not convince.

Feinstein’s perfect diction makes understanding the lyrics a snap. Neal Hefti’s "Girl Talk" with Bobby Troup’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics refer to what girls say to each other when the men aren’t around. The lyrics call it "inconsequential things that men don’t really care to know." Feinstein drives home the message that we love ‘em just the same, quite convincingly. Maynard Ferguson’s trumpet solos are very brief and only appear on about half the album. Feinstein’s piano playing is used on several tracks to fill behind his singing. The singer performs "How Little We Know" a cappella, just vocal and piano; the way he usually performs his nightclub act. Coincidentally, Michael Feinstein opened his own nightclub in New York; Feinstein’s At The Regency opened in October.

The fine big band arranging of Patrick Williams, Alan Broadbent, Tom Garling, Mort Lindsey and Eddie Karam provides top-notch big band excitement behind the vocalist. Williams’ arrangement of "Lullaby In Rhythm" has the full band quoting from "Lullaby of Birdland," "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Lullaby of the Leaves" in conversation with Feinstein. The singer was launched into the spotlight by Liza Minnelli in 1986 and had his own one-man show on Broadway two years later. Using a phrase that sums up Feinstein’s magnetic appeal, the show was called Isn’t It Romantic: Michael Feinstein in Concert.


Track Listing: Close Your Eyes; The Very Thought Of You; Let Me Off Uptown; Girl Talk; You Can

Personnel: Michael Feinstein- vocals, piano on "The Rhythm of the Blues," "Swing is Back in Style," "When Your Lover Has Gone / The Gal That Got Away" and "How Little We Know;" Maynard Ferguson- leader, trumpet, flugelhorn; Earl MacDonald- piano; Dennis Budimir- guitar; Brian Stahurski- bass; Dave Throckmorton, Albie Berk- drums; Larry Bunker- vibraphone, percussion; Wayne Bergeron, Adolfo Acosta, Brian Ploeger- trumpet; Bobby Shew- trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Garling, Alex Iles, Reggie Watkins- trombone; Bryant Byers- bass trombone; Jim Self- tuba; Mike Dubaniewicz, Gary Foster- alto saxophone; Jim Brenan, Dan Higgins- tenor saxophone; Sal Lozano- baritone saxophone; Matt Catingub- alto saxophone on "Love Is Nothin

Title: Big City Rhythms | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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