Trying to get the decks cleared before the next overseas trip. Much to write about, and much to load onto the ‘pod for that 14-hour Pacific flight.
Chaise Lounge – Insomnia
Released – April 2012
This is a unique group of musicians – hell, they had me at the quote from Mr. Barnett – “We wear suits—it’s a stylish damn band.” From somewhere between Washington (the right coast one) and Baltimore, the sextet describes themselves as fresh out of a 1962 recording studio. Not just any recording studio, but the famed Capitol Recording Studios.
If you’re going to make the comparison, make it a good one.
Luckily, the band lives up to its hype on this disc of a dozen tunes – nine originals, plus Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Bali Ha’i,” Arlen and Harburg’s “If I Only Had A Brain,” and a version of “Ode to Billie Jo” that matches the band’s Marilyn Older channeling Bobbie Gentry’s voice. Except imagine Blood, Sweat and Tears as the backing band.
The words and music for the originals come from Charlie Barnett, with a list of 50 credits as a film composer. He’s able to craft lyrics (“Houdini”) like, “I need a man, not a magician | I’ve got the keys in the ignition.”
But it’s the skill of Ms. Older, whose charm comes from being able to throw off Mr. Barnett’s lyrical punchlines with the charm of a gifted straight man. Feisty, but familiar, she’s everywoman, with great lines like “The truth is you’ll be bummin’ | cause you’ll never see it comin’ | I’m going to ruin your day.”
And that’s from probably my favorite track on the disc – the bonus track – the unlisted “I’m Going To Ruin Your Day,” which apparently isn’t available as a download, only on the physical CD.
Of it, Mr. Barnett says, “I just loved the idea of writing a waltz, not even a particularly hip jazz waltz, but an old-fashioned lovey-dovey-style waltz, and having it contain a lyric of true spitefulness. In the space at top of the score, to the left—where a composer usually writes something like “andante” or “slowly, with feeling” — I wrote ‘peevish.’”
And Ms. Older plays it beautifully. Her charm comes from her style, warm and simple, able to handle not just peevish, but also the blues and a romantic ballad with class. No wonder she was nominated as one of Washington DC’s best jazz vocalists.
Yes, it is. In addition to Ms. Older, Mr. Barnett on Guitar and piano, Tommy Barrick on Drums, Gary Gregg on sax, clarinet and flute, John Jensen on trombone, and Pete Ostle on bass and tuba.
Class act, this. Very highly recommended.
Norah Jones’ new CD is “Little Broken Hearts,” and while her fans will snap it up, all of the tracks started to run together for me after a while. That said, the apparent radio hit, “Happy Pills,” is the standout of the bunch, and another track, “4 Broken Hearts” is also worthy of a current mix.
Here’s the official “Happy Pills” video.