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John Proulx: Say It

C. Michael Bailey By

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Vocalist/pianist John Proulx has previously released three exceptional recordings on the MAXJAZZ Label (now owned by Mack Avenue Records): Moon and Sand (2006); The Best Thing For You (2006); and Baker's Dozen: Remembering Chet Baker (2016). With the death of MAXJAZZ founder Richard McDonnell, Proulx elected to self-release his recording Say It. The recording is produced by vocalist/producer Judy Wexler, whose own recordings, What I see (Jazzed Media, 2013), Under a Painted Sky (Jazzed Media, 2011), and Dreams and Shadows (Jazzed Media, 2009) amply demonstrate a superb musical ear, translating into an effective overall vision. Both Proulx and Wexler have West Coast jazz creds to spare and are part of one of the most creative regions of the country.

Proux's recording is also notable for having several parallels with Joanne Tatham's recent release The Rings of Saturn (Café Pacific Records, 2018). Both recordings employ the musical wares of saxophonist Bob Sheppard and guitarist Larry Koonse. Both recordings contain arrangements marked by cleverly constructed basslines, often doubled on the piano (this is a characteristic or many Mark Winkler projects) as evidenced by the title piece. And, both recordings address the much under-covered work of Michael Franks. Tatham covered "Summer in New York" (from Time Together (Shanachie Records, 2011) and, presently, Proulx covers "Scatsville" from Franks' 2006 release Rendezvous in Rio (Koch Records). Both songs light years from Franks' great popularity with The Art of Tea (Reprise, 1976). These are inspired covers.

But Proulx's surprises do not stop there. Say It brims with a well-considered programing roster. Proulx opens with the Duubey/Bonfa standard "Gentle Rain," framing the swinging tune in the hard bop construct of head-solos-head where the "heads" are sung verses and the "solos" open with a fit bit of scat singing from Proulx followed by a likewise solo from Koonse. "The Summer Knows" theme song from the movie Summer of '42 (Warner Bros., 1971), is a perfect vehicle for Proulx's frankly pretty voice. But Proulx's instrument is not too pretty for Mose Allison's "I Don't Worry About a Thing," on which the singer's voice bear an uncanny resemblance to that of the Bard of Tippo, MS. Proulx includes an Alan Broadbent original, "The Last Goodbye," while employing Broadbent globally as strings arranger. The disc closes with Ellington's "Something to Live For" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," providing a fitting coda to a fine release.

Track Listing: Gentle Rain; Scatsville; The Summer Knows; Watch What Happens; Say It; I Don’t Worry About a Thing; The Last Goodbye; Stained Glass; Something to Live For; Both Sides Now.

Personnel: John Proulx: piano, vocals; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Larry Koonse: guitar; Bob Sheppard: tenor sax, soprano sax; Billy Hulting: auxiliary percussion; Melissa Manchester: vocals; The Gina Kronstadt Strings-Gina Kronstadt: violin; Susan Chatman: violin; Rodney Wurtz: viola; Stefanie Fife: cello.

Title: Say It | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ArtistShare

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