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(independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 2/11/2009)
One of Duke Ellington's best-known compositions is It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing, and in recent years a number of young performers especially singer-songwriters have been taking that to heart, with music that evokes jazz and Tin Pan Alley. Quite a few contemporary women have taken up the style, ranging from folkie Susan Werner to people like Madeleine Peyroux, who approach things more from the jazz side. But there are not a lot of men on the scene doing this kind of thing. Jamie Cullum comes to mind.
This week we have jazz-influenced singer-songwriter crooner whose new recording is quite appealing. It's Andy Scott, and his new CD is called Don't Tempt Fate.
Andy Scott is a New York-based musician whose main instruments on the CD are keyboards, but he also plays guitar. He tends to hang out with jazz musicians, as most of the players on his CD have significant jazz credentials. He has also shared the stage and performed with Madeleine Peyroux, so she returns the favor and appears on this CD. Scott's material is fairly lighthearted lyrically, mostly love songs taken with the kind of sensibilities that evoke the pre-rock era. Musically, the emphasis is on a kind of easy-going swing throughout, with songs that sometimes echo the textures of jazz standards. There is often a kind of whimsical perspective to his songs and vocal style, and Scott can be reminiscent of some jazz musicians who have taken to writing witty songs like Mose Allison or Jay Leonhart, and singing them in a voice that is not exactly operatic in quality.
Among the notable supporting players on Don't Tempt Fate are keyboard man Sam Yahel, from the Joshua Redman group and his own trio, bass player Noriko Ueda. who is part of Sherrie Maricle's Five Play and the Diva Orchestra. Victor Lewis, who is a significant figure in the jazz world, is heard throughout on drums. Rounding out the group are three guitar players, Ben Butler and Ross Traut on acoustic guitars, and Jon Herington on electric.
Leading off this rather short, 35-minute CD is the title song, Don't Tempt Fate, which features Madeleine Peyroux. The song sums up the sound of the CD. The presence of Ms. Peyroux is a reminder of the kinship to the sound of Ms. Peyroux's last CD, which also features organist Sam Yahel. <<>>
Following is Lover's Apology which has a similar easy-going swing groove, with somewhat more introspective lyrics. <<>>
Rainy Day takes more bluesy direction, while the lyrics seek to make the best of inclement weather. <<>>
Get It While You Can -- not to be confused with the blues song of the same name -- is one of the slower tunes on this generally upbeat album. Scott is heard on guitar, rather than his usual Wurlitzer electric piano, on this rather slinky-sounding waltz. <<>>
Scott pays tribute to the Tin Pan Alley era by showing his influences. A couple of Scott's songs bear something of a passing resemblance to jazz standards. Lost But Not Forgotten evokes the melody from The Lady is a Tramp. But Scott takes it in a different direction before long. The lyrics definitely have the old fashioned quality of Tin Pan Alley songs. <<>>
Lost in This World is a kind of torch song, slow and sad in lyrics. But it adds good variety to the CD, and the words are some of the best on the recording. <<>>
One of the most amusing songs is Who Doesn't Call performed solo. It's basically about playing telephone tag. <<>>
Also with a scaled-back arrangement is the closing track Learning to Fly, a kind of roundabout love song. <<>>
Andy Scott's new CD Don't Tempt Fate is a enjoyable, rather retro-sounding collection of swingy songs in a style that lately has seen some revival, including by Madeleine Peyroux, who puts in a couple of guest appearances. Scott's vocals, though lacking some gloss, have a good deal of charm. His band is first-rate, and his material, though sometimes a bit musically derivative, is pleasing and lyrically astute.
For its sound quality, we'll give the CD an A-minus. The mix captures the casual sound of the performance without adding too many sonic artifacts. But the dynamic range is restricted by the usual unwelcome volume compression that robs the music of some of its impact.
In recent years, there has been the revival of what I have called the contemporary chanteuse, the somewhat romantic, jazzy women vocalists, people like Norah Jones and Andy Scott's friend Madeleine Peyroux. Andy Scott, on his new CD represents the male side of the genre.
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