For his debut album, California- based singer George Bugatti has torn a dozen pages from the "Steve Allen Songbook" in a cabaret-style session whose laid-back temperament calls to mind Bobby Short, Buddy Greco or Frank D'Rone. Bugatti employs the same nonchalant, sometimes almost whispered approach that is the mark of an experienced lounge singer, which he is (he appears regularly in the Club Bar at the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel, where he has drawn nods of approval from such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Nicolas Cage and Sylvester Stallone, among others). Bugatti is very good at what he does, although I don't think it's a path that ordinarily leads to superstardom (although his smoldering good looks could conceivably help move him in that direction). On the other hand, Bugatti should make a comfortable living, which is more than many talented singers can manage. As for the session at hand, Steve Allen is a prolific and underrated songwriter in the tradition of Tin Pan Alley whose legacy will be far more appreciated one day when the spinning wheel returns us once more to good music. "Impossible" is about as lovely a ballad as any written in recent years, and Allen's lyrics are in turn romantic, witty, sardonic or satiric as the situation demands. Bugatti sings them well, albeit without the sort of magnetism that raises the Bennetts and Sinatras above the crowd. He does have some slight problems with intonation (on "Mr. Moon," for example) and doesn't convey the requisite sense of irony on "I Hate New York." Other than that, he's fine. But I can't help wondering why, since Allen has written more than 5,000 songs, Bugatti was able to unearth only enough of them to fill 36:22, or less than half of a disc. I know, those studio fees can be murderous - but a few more productive minutes there might have enhanced the album's bottom line.
Track listing: Impossible; Rainy Weather; Oh, What a Night for Love; You're Something; I Hate New York; Mister Moon; After You; Don't Cry, Little Girl; Playing the Field; Spring Is Where You Are; Kiss Me First; An Old Piano Plays the Blues (36:22).
George Bugatti, vocals (piano on "An Old Piano Plays the Blues"); Steve Rawlins, piano; Gene Burkert, flute, alto and tenor sax; Grant Geissman, guitar; Jim DeJulio, bass; Dave Tull, drums.