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Warren Vache: Warren Plays Warren

AAJ Staff By

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In my estimation, Harry Warren is the most underrated songwriter of the 20th Century. While very successful, he is less famous than his songs (“Lullaby of Broadway”, “There Will Never Be Another You”) or the people who sang them (Jolson, among many others.) While Gershwin and Coward became celebrities, Warren stayed in the shadows, quietly building an immense catalog. The songs are still here, and in the right hands are a gold mine. In an intimate setting with stellar rhythm, Warren Vache fills these tunes with joy, charm, and an unstoppable swing. It’s a great feeling, and the two Warrens fit each other very well.

Vache, cornet in hand, takes the left speaker; Randy Sandke’s trumpet is on the right. The come in together on “This Heart of Mine”; then it’s Sandke for two glowing minutes. Check out Kenny Drew, Jr.: his little fills go way beyond comping. Warren goes high, with velvet touch: all the mellow of a flugelhorn. Sandke goes brassy on the exchanges, and Warren gives it back, shout for shout. Each blast tops the last, and still they fit together. They exit in concert, and you’ve got it: a marriage of tune and performer. Keep listening: the honeymoon is far from over.

Murray Wall gets that bass going on (what else?) “Would You Like to Take a Walk”. The horns stroll beside him. Warren takes off – he muses, but loudly! Sandke is more restrained: he creeps where Warren struts. “Nagasaki” gets the bop treatment: locked horns with plenty of steam. Hear Sandke quote “The Theme”; the duet opening is a must. Vache then lays out on “I Only Have Eyes”; a marvelous solo starts right from the theme. Sandke owns it, and Drew ain’t bad either.

Next we speak Latin: “Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” is as turbulent as the name. Drew strikes a montuno, and Randy tumbles eloquently. The mutes go in for “Getting to be a Habit”, and we are back in the ‘Thirties. Randy is sly; Warren has a charming honk, as warm as an old floppy hat. He then sings a verse – did I say charming honk? The rumply voice works in ways I can’t describe – all I can do is enjoy. Game, set, and match – we have a winner.

For the homestretch we kick it up some. “Lulu’s Back in Town” stomps like the old girl herself: a duel in dead heat. “42nd Street” gets its verse, and a whole lot of brass. Vache is higher than normal; Sandke’s deep like a trombone. Drew goes angular, a modern solo with some Monk bleeps. Warren growls, but he also shows some hard bop. Randy also goes this direction; a new sound from an old source.

Likewise “An Affair to Remember”: the bossa beat, and a mute as warm as Miles’. Vache finishes the theme with equal charm. Bright piano, shining cymbals – remember you will. This leads to other soft spots: “The Craziest Dream” a brassy soft focus, “I Remember You From Somewhere” a muted cousin to “Mood Indigo”. And for dessert there’s another “Habit”, minus the words. The drums are sharper here, with more oomph to the trumpet. Drew is big : wide chords, and the essence of class. You won’t forget the first version, but this should be heard. It’s a great work, and shows love for the great works of Harry Warren. Says Vache: “Back in the ‘Thirties, they threw away more good tunes no one’s heard of, than they’re writing now.” Hear this and you’ll agree.


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