The duet program Golden Earrings is Laura Theodore's ode to Peggy Lee's standard-setting duets with her husband, guitarist and co-composer Dave Barbour. Subsequent circumstances have added a sadder tribute to Theodore's instrumental partner, guitarist Joe Beck, who recorded his final work on Golden Earrings before he succumbed to cancer in July 2008.
Tribute offerings can be tricky propositions. If you stay too close to the originals, critics say that you're simply "aping" them; change them too much and critics complain that you've strayed too far. Golden Earrings shows how Theodore and Beck mastered both approaches. Theodore delivers her most confident and flirty vocal on Lee's famous cougar growl "Why Don't You Do Right," keeping its sultry beat with Beck. But they completely reinvent "Fever" by highlighting its "off rhythms" and trading a vamped ending that blasts the original tune into a completely different universe.
Theodore and Beck consistently sound like they're simply having a ball working this material out. Beck strums out a sunny bossa nova to walk with Theodore's bright and warm vocal in "Take a Little Time to Smile." His accompaniment in "Don't Smoke in Bed" seems played in no discernable rhythm; he simply follows the vocal in whatever time Theodore chooses to singthe perfect accompanist. Theodore snaps off "I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me" like she's popping bubble gum, and she reshapes the melody and rhythm of "I Get Along Without You Very Well" like Ella Fitzgerald would, transforming Hoagy Carmichael's original into a lilting, soft blue haze. It seems entirely appropriate in retrospect that Beck's electric guitar haunts the first verses to introduce Theodore's voice and open "Johnny Guitar." No writer or speaker could craft a finer eulogy than Beck's own guitar voice.
Theodore and Beck may use different instruments, but they sing in one voice. The final line of the title track, a mysterious tale of romantic gypsy legend, presents your invitation to enjoy this offering: "Let this pair of golden earrings cast their spell tonight."
Track Listing: Johnny Guitar; Why Don't You Do Right?; Take a Little Time to Smile; Fever; My Small Senor; Don't Smoke in Bed; I Get Along Without You Very Well; You Was Right Baby; I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me; Solitude; Everything is Moving Too Fast; When You Speak with Your Eyes; Golden Earrings; I Don't Know Enough About You; What More Can a Woman Do?; Manana.
Personnel: Laura Theodore: vocals; Joe Beck: guitars.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.