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John Proulx: Say It

Dan Bilawsky By

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This fourth date from John Proulx clearly marks a new chapter in his career. After delivering three albums on the now-defunct MAXJAZZ imprint, and after a hiatus from recording under his own name, this triple-threat vocalist-pianist-composer returns with his first independently-produced offering. The music spotlights a man who's grown more comfortable in his skin and lived more of what life has to offer.

With a band stacked with West Coast heavyweights, a playlist marked by eclectic material highlighting his myriad gifts, and a producer—in vocalist Judy Wexler—adept at shaping an album, Proulx has everything in its right place. Say It sets sail with a swinging "Gentle Rain" that immediately juxtaposes his cool school vocals against brighter backing. Whether delivering the lyrics, trading solos with drummer Joe LaBarbera, or running a unison line down with guitarist Larry Koonse, he seems to sit squarely in his wide comfort zone. The same goes on what immediately follows—a lightly funky and humorous stroll through Michael Franks' "Scatsville," a nostalgia-laced "The Summer Knows" emotionally augmented by Alan Broadbent's string arrangement, and a "Watch What Happens" with backbeat bonhomie.

The title track, anchored by a signature bass line and offering space to Koonse's guitar, is, like Proulx himself, a model of poise. Everything just sounds and feels natural. That ease of expression surfaces time and again—on the stop-time blues cruise through Mose Allison's "I Don't Worry About A Thing," the sentimental journey across Broadbent's "The Last Goodbye," a meeting with guest vocalist Melissa Manchester on their co-penned "Stained Glass," a cheerier-than-the-norm skip through Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Something To Live For"—and it's central to the success of his work. Proulx is honest to the core—check out his album-closing take on Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" for further proof. Ultimately, it's that genuine quality that sets this music apart.

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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