A seizure of nostalgia has gripped the jazz vocals community and shows no evidence of abating. Retta Christie continues her excellent survey of obscure cowboy movie tunes with Dave Frishberg. Lawrence Lebo strips the American musical vernacular to the quick in her three volume series, and Jennifer Zarine successfully mashes up 75 years of Americana with prewar Berlin Cabaret.
Fresh Made Cuppa Tea is very familiar, but completely lacking that sepia-toned attic smell; rather, these songs are crisp like a Spring strawberry bursting on the roof of your mouth. Driven by an eclectic sextet that includes a cello and occasional accordion, Zarine's repertoire is coolly sleek and hip.
Following Art Pepper's sage advice to never start a show with a ballad, Zarine kicks things off with a little-big band expression of the DeLugg-Stein chestnut "Orange Colored Sky." That and Gorney-Clare's "You're My Thrill," Charles Chaplin's "Smile" (coupled with the Leonard-Martin "I'm All Smiles"), and the Styne-Robin "Bye-Bye Baby" are what pass for standards here, each fresh scrubbed and bubbly. "Something Cool" is splendidly sultry and becoming.
But, it is the out-of-the-way selections that steal the show. Smokey Robinson's "The Way You Do The Things You Do" is Linda Ronstadt-smart and Elton John's "I Need You to Turn To" is the disc highlight. Great fun is the francophonic "Boum," a song truly summoning the spirit of the Berlin Cabaret, Red Wierenga's accordion adding that Lawrence Welk authenticity to the whole affair. Eric Lindberg's Hot Club guitar completes the underground laudanum dream.
"Paint it Black" is the breakout song of the disc. Take the Berlin paradigm into the 21st Century, add the beat of Sonny Rollins' "I'm Old Cowhand" as manifested in Josh Rutner divining Sidney Bechet on the tenor saxophone, and the idea might begin to become clear. This release should not be treated as a gimmick disc. Jennifer Zarine is the real deal.
Orange Colored Sky; The Way You Do the Things You Do; Something
Have A Cuppa Tea; You're My Thrill; I Need You To Turn To; Boum; Paint
It Black; Smile--I'm All Smiles; Sleep; Bye Bye Baby; That's All.
Jennifer Zarine: vocals; Ben Gallina: bass; Brady Miller: drums; Eric
Lindberg: guitar; Eric Stephenson: cello; Josh Rutner: saxophone; Red
Wierenga: piano and accordion.