While female jazz vocalists outnumber male jazz vocalists five to one, it would be a fallacy to believe there is not a wealth of talent among the men singers. With Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker now memories, and Mark Murphy and Jon Hendricks in twilight, as Kurt Elling ascends their throne, there exists a vocal diaspora of the most refined and sonically appealing voices singing, and they are all men. Andy Bey, Beat Kaestli, Henry Darragh and John Proulx all have beautifully sweet and slightly androgynous voices that are able to flatter a broad range of song types. Proulx, who has previously released the uniformly excellent Moon and Sand (2006) and Baker's Dozen: Remembering Chet Baker on MAXJAZZ, proves again, on The Best Thing For You, that he is the leader of this pack.
The Best Thing For You weighs heavier with Proulx originals than standards and the entire assembly hangs as if born together. Proulx has great empathy with Irving Berlin, spinning his title tune into a tale that can only be described as delightful. Proulx channels Berlin's stage spirit in his own tunes, like the "Push Hands Anna," which is almost a throwback to the wartime Andrews Sisters, but sings perfectly now. Proulx programs the McHugh/Fields chestnut "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" with his own "Love Is For Dreamers," which he duets with Sara Gazarek. His excellent vocals and piano smooth the two rather different songs together into a homogenous whole, making perfect sense.
Proulx's core trio includes bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe La Barbera, who also supported the singer on his two previous outings. Guitarist Larry Koonse, trumpeter Ron Stout and reed multi-instrumentalist Bob Sheppard all appear in different contexts. Pianist Bill Cunliffe shares production and song arrangement services with Proulx, while playing piano on Marian McPartland's "In The Days of Our Love." Proulx sings Peggy Lee's lyrics like they were penned yesterday. The duet between Cunliffe and Proulx is very effective. He also duets with the Berghofer on "Here's to The Chuckster," a song Proulx penned in honor of the bassist.
Proulx is not a blues singer per se, but does demonstrate his affinity for the style on the piano, rendering a swinging "Proulx's Blues," which closes this most excellent recital.
The Best Thing For You; Sing; Jogger Chronicles; Love Is For Dreamers; I
Can't Give You Anything But Love; Angel; Wabash; Before We Say
Goodnight; Push Hands Anna; And So It Goes; Two Of A Kind; In The Days
Of Our Love; Here's To The Chuckster; Proulx's Blues.
John Proulx: vocals. piano; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe La Barbera:
drums; Sara Gazarek: vocals (4, 6, 8); Michael Feinstein: vocals (11);
Bill Cunliffe: piano (12); Bob Shepphard: soprano, tenor saxophone &
flute (1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11); Larry Koonse: guitar (2, 4, 7-9); Ron Stout:
trumpet (1, 3, 7, 11); Jeremy Boersma: cello (6).