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Various Artists: Blue Bacharach

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The current (waning) resurgence in "Lounge" culture (loosely covering everything from soundtrack music, to lightweight pop-jazz, and the proto-World music of Martin Denny and Les Baxter) has created a corresponding demand for all things Bacharach. This icon of the 'swinging 60's', though long past his prime is finding new life as a nostalgic totem of Gen-X ironic detachment. This is really a shame because in his prime, Burt Bacharach was virtually unmatched in songwriting/arranging prowess, covering the bases from film work to pop hits all the while greatly enriching the standard repertoire. His tunes are as well known as any, and were/are among the most recorded.

'Blue Bacharach', a volume in Blue Note's 'The Blue Series' (a series of thematic compilations aimed at the jazz dilletante), reveals that while Bacharach was a master tunesmith, his work was not ideally suited to jazz.

Though the cast of characters here is populated with many of Blue Note's 60's greats (Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Rueben Wilson) and a couple of gems from the Pacific Jazz (now owned by Blue Note's parent company, Capitol) roster (the Jazz Crusaders, Richard 'Groove' Holmes), few of the performances can be described as anything other than pleasant, almost none rising to the level of exciting jazz. In fact, much of it approaches easy listening. The kind of disposable covers of pop hitsthat increased following the end of Alfred Lion's involvement with the label (see the otherwise wonderful Hank Mobley's listless take on the Four Tops 'Reach Out (I'll Be There)'. Part of the blame can be placed on the material itself. Bacharach's tunes are among the most idiosyncratic of their day, their specific structures often preventing serious reinterpretation. As a result, only the versions of lesser know material, like the Ernie Watts Quintet's take on 'Knowing When to Leave', are unfamiliar enough to make any kind of fresh impression. The rest of the material (despite energetic work by Groove Holmes and the Jazz Crusaders) only serves to remind the listener of the original, better known versions.

The end result, though pleasant listening, is hardly representative of one of the great labels in jazz history.


Title: Blue Bacharach | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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