Cat Conner – Cat House

Cat Conner - Cat House Cat Conner – Cat House (Cat Tales)
Released – October 14, 2014

If you’re hooked in the first ten seconds or so, you’ll stick around for the rest of the song. That’s my experience. So, hooked I was – first by John Chiodini’s slick guitar on the first few bars, then by Cat Conner’s luxurious vocal, then by her effortless way with the lyric, on the first track, “Everything I Love/Everything I Desire.”

I kept sticking around, and things just got better and better.

The whole album has an easy aura of a bunch of pros having fun, and a band that sounds bigger than they are. Mr. Chiodini, who also wrote most of the arrangements, is joined by Gene Cipriano on reeds, Tom Ranier on piano, drummer Joe LaBarbera, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Ron Stout on trumpet, and Dick Cat ConnerNash on trombone.

Favorites include the classic “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” and a little-heard Cahn-Van Heusen tune, “Come On Strong.”

Refreshingly straight-ahead, and highly recommended.

62nd LogoHighlighted tracks have been added to the radio playlist at 62ndStreet.com.

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One of the discs that has made it into heavy rotation at 62ndStreet.com is by Jeremy Fox, a jazz educator who released his first album, “With Love,” earlier this year.  Mr. Fox has made a living coaching vocalists, and he enticed a number of outstanding artists to join his orchestra on this disc, including Kate Reid, Lauren Kinhan, and one of my favorites, Kate McGarry, with “All My Tomorrows.”

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Marlene VerPlanck – I Give Up, I’m In Love

Marlene VerPlanck - I Give Up, I'm In LoveMarlene VerPlanck -
I Give Up, I’m In Love (Audiophile)
Released – October 7, 2014

Indulge me on a little marketing trip down memory lane.

There was a time when Budweiser was the big beer, not some watered-down “lite”or “light” beer. But if Budweiser was the every day beer, weekends were special.

Say it with me – weekends were made for Michelob.

Michelob was brewed just a little longer, was just a little smoother, and had a gold label on its distinctive bottle. So just like Ed McMahon urged us to “Pick a pair of six-packs” when it came to Budweiser, the Friday paycheck went to a cold six of Michelob on the way home.

One of the voices that sold weekends was Marlene VerPlanck, who – after stints with the big bands of Charlie Spivak, Tex Beneke and the Dorsey Brothers, became one of the busiest studio singers in the country. In addition to Michelob weekends, she was the voice of “Mm-mm good” Campbell’s Soups, and on-your-side Nationwide Insurance.

It’s several years later, and Ms. VerPlanck is not only still busy working, she’s still making outstanding music with the big bands. “I Give Up, I’m In Love” is a solid piece of work, with an eclectic choice of standards and would-be standards just a block or so off the main street. Favorites include the Rodgers-Hart classic, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” from the musical 1939 Musical “Too Many Girls,” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” from the 1936 Fred Astaire movie “Swing Time.”

Marlene VerPlanck - Loves Johnny MercerAll of this got me buying records from the 60s and 70s, and the best of those that I found was the one generally considered to have gotten Ms. VerPlanck out of the commercial studio, and back to a solo career – 1979’s “Marlene VerPlanck Loves Johnny Mercer.” With a backing group that includes the legendary Bucky Pizzarelli – this one’s well worth it to hear Ms. VerPlanck caress Mercer classics like “Charade,” along with “That Old Black Magic,” and “Fools Rush In.”

“I Give Up, I’m In Love,” with Warren Vache on coronet and Glenn Franke’s Big Band featured on several tracks, is highly recommended, but go ahead and spring for the other one, too. “Loves Johnny Mercer,” with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, is very highly recommended.

62nd LogoHighlighted tracks have been added to the radio playlist at 62ndStreet.com.

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And yes, here’s the Michelob commercial, and although there are no credits, it’s the only one I found with a female voice, and so I’ll figure this must be Ms. VerPlanck.  Fun facts – the blonde in the commercial is future Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd.  And the voice – yeah, that’s Charlie – John Forsythe.

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Ana Gasteyer – I’m Hip

AAna Gasteyer - I'm Hipna Gasteyer – I’m Hip (Henry’s Girl)
Released – September 30, 2014

I can’t remember having this much fun listening to a set of tunes for the first time. Ana Gasteyer, of “Saturday Night Live” and “Suburgatory” fame, puts together a dozen tunes that were just like that amusement park roller coaster.

“Can we go again?”

Ms. Gasteyer is probably most remembered by my generation from “Saturday Night Live,” and more recently as Sheila Shay in the sitcom “Suburgatory.” I’ve always thought of her as a gifted comedic actor, both on television – and Broadway.

From the propaganda: “When Ana Gasteyer steps up to the mic, she evokes the swagger of an era when a lady ruled a nightclub and an audience knew they were in for good time. The patter is real, the themes adult; the lyrics are timeless, and the music swings like crazy!”

Ana GasteyerProduced and arranged by Julian Fleisher, who also put together Ms. Gasteyer’s cabaret act, “Elegant Songs From a Handsome Woman,” the set feels like an audition that demonstrates Ms. Gasteyer’s formidable and versatile musical skills.

Like most auditions, I was sold about ten seconds in.

Favorites include what is apparently the first single fromt the set – a cover of the Rhythm and Blues tune, “One Mint Julep,” a song from the 20s – “Proper Cup of Coffee,” and a poignant cover of “(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls.”

But the one that had me telling friends, “You’ve got to hear this,” is the title track, an updated version of Dave Frishberg’s “I’m Hip,” that includes great lines like:

If I prattle too fast on my edgy podcast, then it’s my bad
Every Saturday night – using Tumblr and Skype on my iPad

62nd LogoI’ll be adding those tracks to the playlist at 62ndStreet.com.  Fun from start to finish. Highest recommendation.

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“One Mint Julep” was written for the Clovers – an Atlantic Records group that wanted to get away from doo-wop, and help cement the marketing move to make Atlantic a hot R-and-B label.

It’s the first track on this album. Mr. Fleisher’s arrangement pushes the accelerator to the floor from the get-go. Great fun. This is the official video.

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Bennett/Gaga – “Cheek To Cheek”

Tony Bennett - Lady Gaga - "Cheek to Cheek"Tony Bennett-Lady Gaga –
“Cheek To Cheek”
(Streamline/Columbia/Interscope)
Released – September 23, 2014

Any friend of Tony Bennett is a friend of mine.

Which is one reason I made sure I was on the pre-order list for the much-talked-about, much delayed release of “Cheek to Cheek,” the collaborative work from Mr. Bennett and Lady Gaga. She’s quoted as saying she wanted to introduce American Songbook material to a younger generation. He’s quoted as saying she should stick to the standards, adding that with this album, “…she will become bigger than Elvis Presley!”

Mr. Bennett has been making number-one records longer than I’ve been alive. He knows a little about reinventing himself. He’s gone down the “duets” road with a number of artists, but none grab the headlines like…do you call her “Ms. Gaga?” I don’t know.

Neither of them are great vocalists in the classic sense, but both have an impeccible sense of timing and rhythm that carry them well – both individually, and together. Solo tracks for each on this – for Mr. Bennet, it’s “Sophisticated Lady” and “Don’t Wait Too Long;” for Ms. Gaga, it’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” along with “Lush Life,” and a cover of Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” probably the disc’s weakest link.

Bennett - GagaFavorites for me include the Cole Porter classic “Anything Goes,” along with “Cheek To Cheek” – both released in advance of the album, and the Kern-Hammerstein-Harbach classic “I Won’t Dance.”

Classic in the sense that it’ll be listened to a dozen years from now? Probably not. Classic enough to make a great stocking stuffer for Christmas?

You bet. Great fun, and very highly recommended.

62nd LogoOn the playlist at 62ndStreet radio: Ms. Gaga’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” and the duets – “Anything Goes” and “Let’s Face The Music And Dance.”

Tony Bennett’s WebsiteLady Gaga’s Website


Nashville-based singer (and Facebook pal) Karen Johns dropped a line pointing to a new video from her new regular gig in her hometown. This clip is the Rodgers-Hart classic, “My Romance.”


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