Friday, April 1, 2011

Beegie Adair: Swingin' with Sinatra

Green Hill Music
By guest reviewer Derrick Bang
Buy CD: Swingin' with Sinatra

Pianist Beegie Adair, once again indulging her fondness for theme albums, returns to the massive Frank Sinatra catalogue for Swingin’ with Sinatra. The result is another one of her tasteful jazz gems, with ample support from longtime collaborators Roger Spencer (bass) and Chris Brown (drums).

The album opens with breezy renditions of “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “Nice ’n Easy,” the latter suitably describing Adair’s facility on the keyboard; she effortlessly maintains any melody line with a blend of pleasing chords and delicate little runs. Spencer adds nice counterpoint to “Nice and Easy,” as well.

Tempo and mood shift with “Guess I’ll Have to Hang My Tears Out to Dry” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” both emerging as bluesy laments. Adair avoids the energetic runs here, choosing instead to supply the melody with minimalist single notes and quiet chords. It’s not hard to imagine snuggling up to a constant companion in the darkened, sultry basement of an old-style jazz joint (minus the cigarette smoke, one hopes).

All these songs are best known as vocals, of course, and occasionally the lyrics are missed; Adair does her best to “fill” by varying her approach and adding cute quotes from other sources. She opens “New York, New York” with a droll flourish from The Wizard of Oz (“You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night...”) and then launches into the song as Brown lays down a solid two-beat.

“Call Me Irresponsible” is dreamily romantic, “Angel Eyes” even more so. The latter is delivered with husky solemnity, and in this case, one can almost hear the missing lyrics. A smile-inducing arrangement of “(Love Is) The Tender Trap” gets some additional juice from syncopation changes throughout, not to mention an animated piano solo.

Spencer wails away on a finger-snapping arrangement of “Come Fly with Me,” providing solid support for Adair’s lead on melody. It would have been nice to hear him granted a full solo, and that’s worth repeating; both Spencer and Brown deserve more time in the spotlight.

Adair concludes things in a slow, bluesy mode, with a gently swinging cover of “Don’t Worry ’Bout Me.” The approach fits the album’s theme; one expects sultry torch songs from Ol’ Blue Eyes.

This is Adair’s second stab at the Sinatra songbook, following 1997’s The Frank Sinatra Collection, also with Spencer and Brown. Given the wealth of material still available, we can hope for a trilogy ... but it would be nice not to have to wait another 14 years.

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