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One might well ask "why another tribute album to Cole Porter?". The fact that there is room for so many such recorded accolades is an perpetual acknowledgment of the genius of composers like Porter. Their music is such that it can be susceptible to, and survive, any number of interpretations by any number of interpreters. Joined by some of New York's finest studio and session musicians, now comes Staten Island, NY native and cabaret entertainer Alex Leonard with his nod to one of the more prolific contributors to the Great American Popular Songbook. Leonard is not a crooner and his hipster, jazzy and somewhat laconic Mose Allison way with Porter's music is refreshingly different. His version of "Miss Otis Regrets" is far from the usual melancholy reading of the song. Leonard's upbeat take is accentuated by his swinging piano and matter of fact vocalizing. By including some strictly instrumental tracks, Leonard demonstrates his considerable skills as a pianist as on "Begin the Beguine". This track also showcases the mellow flugelhorn of Don Hahn. Most of the cuts on this album are familiar Porter material. Tere is at least one not as well known, but a gem nonetheless. "Two Little Babes in the Wood" comes from 1924 and is the subject of a lilting solo piano track by Leonard. "Anything Goes" gets the full production treatment kicking off with Leonard reciting a few lines of the lyrics using an echo effect, before taking off with his rocking piano. He gets help here from Paul Rostock on bass and Vito Lesczak on drums. There are some romantic, sensitive moments on this CD as well. One of them is an alluring rendition of "Allez Vous En" which is opened by a flowing muted trombone by John Mosca.
Down in the Depths should be added to the list of illustrious, unique recorded performances of Cole Porter songs and is recommended. Leonard has a web page at www. alexleonard.com.
Track Listing: What Is This Thing Called Love?; Miss Otis Regrets; Love for Sale; Begin the Beguine; Just One of Those Things; Down in the Depths; True Love; Night and Day; Too Darn Hot; Every Time We Say Goodbye; You'd Be So Nice to Come Home to; Allez Vous en; I Concentrate on You; Two Little Babes in the Wood; Anything Goes
Personnel: Alex Leonard - Vocals/Piano; Al Gafa - Guitar; Paul Rostock - Bass; Vito Lesczak - Drums; Ed Jackson - Congas/Bongos; Don Hahn - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Ralph Lalama - Tenor Sax/Flute; Gary Smulyan - Baritone Sax; John Mosca, Jimmy Knepper - Trombone
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.