There exists a group of jazz musicians dedicated to pre-bebop jazz who have traditionally populated the catalogs of the Nagel-Heyer and Arbors record labels. These musicians include Herb Pomeroy, Max Kaminsky, Randy Sandke, Harry Allen, and Dave McKenna. Central to this group is vocalist Marty Elkins who, while in college, discovered the recordings of Ella Fitzgerald, Ellis Larkins, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday's Lady in Satin (Columbia, 1959), falling in love with the period and its repertoire. Elkins moved from her native New Jersey to New York City, in the early eighties, where she met like-minded musicians in the few remaining clubs from the Fifty-Second street eraJimmy Ryan's and Eddie Condon's.
Elkins has previously released three well-received recordings on the Nagel-Heyer label: Fuse Blues (2000); Walkin' By The River (2016); and Fat Daddy (2018). These recordings captured a sassy and savory vocalist, characterized by a firm command of her repertoire and an equivalent measure of dedication. In all of these recordings, Elkins stayed straight-edged true to the music and its performance environment.
Elkins extends this philosophy to the present 'Tis Autumn while adopting a severe format distillation from full combo to a duet with bassist Mike Richmond, whose resume includes having played with Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones and Joe Henderson, as well as having accompanied vocalists Bette Midler, Sheila Jordan, Mark Murphy and Eddie Jefferson. The pair's recital includes an even decade of standards stripped to their bare essentials. Small formats afford performers exactly nowhere to hide, requiring them to operate at their highest level.
Elkins and Richmond meet that challenge, bettering it on the swinging "That Old Devil Moon" and balladic "My Mother's Eyes." The majority of the pieces include no overdubbing, save for Richmond accompanying himself arco and pizzicato on "Stairway To The Stars" to great effect. "In A Mellow Tone" and "Honeysuckle Rose" provide the swinging drive while the title track and "Lullaby Of The Leaves" batten down the ballads. Elkins proves she is serious on the 1926 Harry Woods composition "When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along," trading scatted eights with Richmond, who alternates between a determined 4/4 and his piquant soloing; it all adds up to a delightful, smiling performance. There will always be a place in jazz for recordings like 'Tis Autumn.
Old Devil Moon; In A Mellow Tone; 'Tis Autumn; When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along; Stairway To The Stars; Lullaby Of The Leaves; My Mother's Eyes; Honeysuckle Rose; I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues; All Or Nothing At All.
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