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Jim Caruso: The Swing Set

C. Michael Bailey By

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This disc is 250,000 pounds-per-square-inch cabaret music rendered with a loving and exacting hand by a coy master. Singer Jim Caruso does not take himself seriously while doing exactly that, and it is this quality that makes The Swing Set so much entertaining fun. Caruso's repertoire is not dusty standards, sanded to nothingness; instead, he chooses less-heard gems performed in the style of the '20s and '30s. Add to this perfect engineering and a crackerjack band, and Caruso delivers a completely entertaining experience.

Caruso opens his recital with a bright and smiling take on the 1935 Ted Koehler/Jimmy McHugh Alice Faye vehicle, "I've Got My Fingers Crossed." He shares this glee with Michael Feinstein on the mid-'40s June Barton hit "It's Got To Be This or That," propelled by the full the strength of Caruso's little big band. Harry Allen proves why he is the Frank Sinatra of the tenor saxophone in his solo—Caruso may be his perfect musical foil.

Perhaps the most "standard" of Caruso's selection is the Arlen/Yarberg classic, "If I Only Had a Brain," which Caruso slays with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and cornetist Warren Vache. This is, perhaps, the finest performance of this true American chestnut. Caruso sings this ballad with such sweetness and grace that it would be hard to imagine him bettering himself, but he does on "Pick Yourself Up," which he sings full of sunshine and glee. In lesser hands, the music on The Swing Set would be pure camp. Caruso saves the recital from this with a fun, confident sense of humor and certain knowledge of his material.

Track Listing: I've Got My Fingers Crossed; I Love A Violin; Manhattan; Gotta Be This Or That; I'm So Happy; If I Only Had A Brain; I'm Shootin' High; The Doodlin' Song; Pick Yourself Up; Flexible; Just Squeeze Me; Heart's Desire.

Personnel: Jim Caruso: vocals; Aaron Weinstein: violin, music director, arranger; Bucky Pizzarelli: guitar; Warren Vache: cornet; Harry Allen: tenor saxophone; Tedd Firth: piano; Steve Doyle: bass; John Burr: bass; Warren Odes: drums; Kristy Norter: saxophones; Dave Trigg: trumpet; Ross Konkoff: trumpet.

Title: The Swing Set | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Yellow Sound Label

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