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John Proulx: Say It

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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The first thing one might ask encountering this album is "OK, how do you say Proulx?" It's pronounced "Proo," with a silent l and x. However, there's nothing silent or uncertain about this fine offering from Grammy®-winning pianist/vocalist/composer, John Proulx. Say It is an elegant, first class endeavor.

The ten-selection date opens with Proulx leading a catch-your-breath and scatted version of Luis Bonfa's "The Gentle Rain," spiced with a "Hot House" quote in there and a fine Larry Koonse solo. Michael Franks' hip "Scatsville" has Proulx hip-hopping over the lyrics a la Al Jarreau. He breaks "The Eleventh Commandment" and scat-duels superbly with Bob Sheppard's soprano. Two Michel Legrand workhorses are delivered next ("The Summer Knows" and a clap-tracked accompanied "Watch What Happens"), both allowing Proulx to deftly milk both the melodies and lyrics for all he can.

There's a sense of vulnerability and humanity in Proulx's high tenor. He's a marvelous Jack Lemmon Everyman, not a Marvel Superhero. Melodies are covered with respect and the lyrics interpreted with sincerity and musical integrity. There's little fluff and plenty of feel. And, like the aforementioned Lemmon, Proulx's keyboard is proficient and in synch with the overall upbeat personality of the session. The rhythm section of L.A. studio greats, Larry Koonse, Chuck Berghofer and Joe LaBarbera is about as tasty as it gets. They and the occasional accompanying strings frame and entice Proulx across the session.

The title cut, the infrequently recorded "Say It" (from Hollywood movie "Buck Benny Rides Again") offers Proulx's tasty light-dark interpretation with fine Larry Koonse and Proulx solos. "I Don't Worry About a Thing" is an old school blue sizzler with "swinging Sheppard" and Koonse rides. "The Last Goodbye," by way of ace arranger/composer/pianist Alan Broadbent and Georgio Mancio is a triple-metered string-lush sentiment. "Stained Glass" is a light Jackie and Roy-flavored Bossa with guest Melissa Manchester (who co-wrote the tune with Proulx). "Something to Live For" from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, another rarely-heard gem, gets fresh polish here with a lyrical Berghofer bass solo. The date closes with Joni Mitchell's hit, "Both Sides Now," the arrangement of which sends us off fully sated.

Say It is an honest and musically sincere effort by an extremely talented artist and accompanying cadre. It possesses a musical integrity that's hard to beat—an impeccably produced Judy Wexler, engineered and performed effort from out West that's so good that (Hold On to a) "Buck Benny" might even spring for it.

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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