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Released just in time for the 2000 holiday season (and I did see this CD filling end-cap displays at Barnes & Noble), the new Michael Feinstein two-CD package broadens his appeal beyond Broadway tunes that he does so famously. Instead, he has chosen romantic tunes written for film and stage as the glue holding together all of the tunes thematically.
As one would expect, almost all of the tunes were written by the classic songwriters of earlier generations, going as far back as Irving Berlin’s “Always,” written in 1925. With the usual suspects of Porter, Hammerstein, Kern, Gershwin and Cahn, it seems that the one contemporary exception is the song-writing team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who are represented on the CD by “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” from the 1982 film Best Friends.
Feinstein sings all of the tunes at the same tempo, staggering the melody for emphasis and crooning in an intimate approach suitable for a nightclub appearance, consisting of piano and singer, rather than a concert stage. With his devotion to the meaning and feeling of some of America’s greatest standards, from which jazz musicians have found an ever-lasting source of melody and inspiration, Feinstein takes his time to deliver the lyrics, most often including the introductory verses. Indeed, as Feinstein no doubt knows, some of the canniest lyrics occur in those verses as they set up the tunes: “This day and age we’re living in, gives cause for apprehension, with speed and new invention, and things like third dimension. Yet we grow a trifle weary of Mr. Einstein’s theory. So we must get down to earth at times, relax, relieve the tension.”
The producers of this release have recruited some well-known talent with years of experience in backing vocalists like Rosemary Clooney, Karrin Allyson, Mel Tormé and Irene Kral. Pianists Alan Broadbent and John Oddo are the most continuous presence in backing up Feinstein with the sensitivity and good taste of accomplished accompanists like Tommy Flanagan or Jimmy Rowles. On “All The Way,” the legendary Marian McPartland joins in before a live audience, proving her adaptability to virtually any format, including the seldom-heard role in a lyrical singer-piano duo.
Romance On Film, Romance On Broadway no doubt will ring up the sales for Concord and for Feinstein, extending his appeal in an approachable format and perhaps helping Concord finance jazz albums of its long-established style far beyond 2001. And for listeners who enjoy straightforward presentations of standards with fine jazz musicians professionally applying their talent for unified effect, Romance On Film, Romance On Broadway represents an enjoyable and comfortable excursion through the territory that Feinstein has surveyed for decades now.
Track Listing: Disk One: The More I See You, The Second Time Around, As Time Goes By, Isn
Personnel: Michael Feinstein, vocals, piano; Alan Broadbent, John Oddo, Marian McPartland, Page Caganaugh, piano; George Rabbai, flugelhorn, Warren Vach