Los Angeles-native pianist/singer/composer John Proulx possesses the most thrillingly androgynous voice since Chet Baker whispered "My Funny Valentine. The comparison cannot stop there. Both Baker and Proulx nominally hail from the Midwest (Baker from Oklahoma, Proulx from Michigan). Both men sing with a vibrato-less high tenor; and both men gravitated to the same corner of the American musical canon.
But there is where the similarities end. To dispense with the necessary Chet Baker comparisons from the get go, John Proulx is light years ahead of Baker as an expressive singer, and his classically trained pianism permits him to be a superior musician and composer.
Proulx's debut recording, Moon and Sand, is part of MaxJazz's vocal piano series, whose previous releases have included Dena DeRose's A Walk in the Park (2005) and Patti Wicks' Love Locked Out (2003). Veteran bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera join Proulx for this recital.
What's most striking up front is the overt expressiveness of Proulx's voice. It is a pretty instrument, in the same way as the late Bobby Short's and Jimmy Scott's voices. It is a purely distilled spirit able to convey all emotions in the same way that stem cells convey all subsequent cell types, fundamental and basic. This element is best expressed on the disc's slower ballads, such as "Moon and Sand, "Alice in Wonderland, and the Proulx compositions "My Love for You and "Stuck in a Dream with Me (the ostensible redux for Baker's "Deep in a Dream ).
Proulx's pianism is best heard on up-tempo pieces like "I've Never Been In Love Before and "You'd be so Nice To come Home to. His playing shines on these faster pieces, particularly during the bright solo sections. A superb recital by any name.
Track Listing: I've Never Been In Love Before; Moon And Sand; Alice In Wonderland; My Love For You; Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me; What A Difference A Day Makes; Stuck In A Dream With Me; There Is No Greater Love; I Should Care; So In Love; East Of The Sun; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; I Can't Make You Love Me.
Personnel: John Proulx: piano, voice; Chuck Berghofer: bass, Joe LaBarbera: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.