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John Vance: Dreamsville

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In love as in song, heartfelt declarations are better served softly whispered into the ear. Out of the marketing gambit dubiously called "lounge jazz" (a most cringing sobriquet), one can nevertheless denote a relation to the authentic art form: its kinship to the great Tin Pan Alley songbook. In a few simple metaphors and verses, these songs' sentimental lyrics and cajoling melodies ease their way into one's soul with a unique mix of grace, elegance and directness of feeling that is rivaled only by the opera's almighty aria.

Surprisingly, in the game of love and seduction, where charm is de rigueur, the singing gents have pulled it off quite nicely. What may at first seem at odds having graying men in suits and ties croon about loss, lust and love, has nevertheless proved a rather successful gamble. An important recrudescence for the genre once ruled by the Sinatras, Crosbies and Martins has recently spawned songsters such as Peter Cincotti, Matt Dusk and even Ol' Blue Eyes' own son, Frank Jr. Amongst these, actor John Vance's second effort, Dreamsville, a musically more interesting disc than many recent, kindred outings, deserves attention.

Supported by a brilliant cast of relatively lesser-known sidemen in producer/pianist Jeff Colella, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Kendall Kay, Vance's breathy baritone voice smoothly sails above a set of neat, genre-replenishing sounds. While his velvet tone, ample vibrato, relaxed feel and chosen repertoire reminisce the classic crooners, he and Colella have opted instead to dress his vocals with sophisticated and, at times, groove-based arrangements. This duality results in a peculiar listening experience, where one's brain splits, simultaneously attracted to the particularly interesting arrangements and playing of the rhythm section, and Vance's old-fashioned vocals.

While one can certainly appreciate the occasional foray into cool grooves and more contemporary-sounding sections, the tone Vance's singing style sets is at its most convincing when not competing with such ear-catching elements of accompaniment. Consequently, Vance's performance on "I'm Beginning To See The Light," "My Foolish Heart" and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You," as well as his own superb composition "If You Go," feel more at home than on the less mainstream "Darn That Dream" and "You Don't Know What Love Is."

Much jazzier than his contemporaries' diluted, pop-ish programs, John Vance's Dreamsville is a pleasant album sure to please jazz vocal fans and neophytes alike.

Track Listing: I Hadn't Anyone Till You; Darn That Dream; Like A Lover; Invitation; If You Go; Better Than Anything; I'm Beginning to See the Light; My Foolish Heart; Speak Low; You Don't Know What Love Is; Not LIke This; Bluesette; Dreamsville.

Personnel: John Vance: vocals; Jeff Colella: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Kendall Kay: drums; Stacy Rowles: trumpet and flugelhorn (1, 9); Larry Koonse: guitar (3, 8, 13).

Title: Dreamsville | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Erawan Records

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