I’m sure…

Glad Rag Doll will garner Ms. Krall critical acclaim and more Grammy nominations for her creative exploration of turn-of-the-century (1920’s) ragtime music, but I found GRD …well, pretty much unapproachable.

I’ve mentioned many times how much I enjoy panning for new gold in the depths of the American Songbook — looking for artists and songs that I’ve not heard before. I’m “all in” on the idea of exploration.

However, to me Glad Rag Doll sounds like a Ken Burns PBS documentary soundtrack — an academic exercise — more than a pleasant exploratory listening experience.

As evidenced by the many high-concept album reviews to be found on VocalStandards.com (Sammy Davis, Sinatra, Karrin Allyson…to highlight a few), I’m clearly a big fan of theme LPs.

As such, I held out a great deal of hope for DK’s latest; but sadly I found the album’s monolithic ragtime focus jarring … detached.

Rather than a fun sense of exploration, listening to Glad Rag Doll — 17 tracks that I simply have no connection with — is wearisome. To a ragtime music aficionados GRD may be treasure, but to me it’s more like a homework assignment from music appreciation class.

(Heavy sigh) I’m truly taken aback. [Read more…]

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Picking up the pace…

Right on the heels of Harry Connick Jr.’s success two awesome standards practitioners emerged to shift the “standards revival” into high gear. First up — in 1992 R&B sensation Natalie Cole delivered a stunning tribute album to her father Nat King Cole … truly a tribute LP like none before it.

Unforgettable was 22 tracks of Nat Cole’s biggest hits; rendered wonderfully by Natalie AND … utilizing the digital technology at hand Nat (gone nearly 30 years at this point) and Natalie sang the title track as a duet.

Awards flowed and this stunning album raised the awareness of her father’s music to a whole new generation. Natalie continues to dip back and forth between R&B and standards titles as her career rolls on and her duet performance with Nat is a highlight of her “not to be missed” stage act.

Cool as the other side of the pillow…

As if on cue to counterbalance all the heat coming off Natalie’s Unforgettable LP, Diana Krall — a tall, cool, blonde Canadian jazz sensation — wandered out of the great white north in 1993 bringing a prodigious talent for jazz piano and a distinctive interpretation of the classic standards.

I remember coming across Diana’s debut album — Stepping Out — at a Borders Record store while randomly casting about for something new … I think I stood there with those horrid public headphones on for about an hour listening to that album but it was worth it.

Diana is both talented and prolific — cranking out about a dozen albums and three DVD’s (Live in Paris is the best of the video releases) since her arrival — and it was that volume of super quality material — especially in the all important late 90’s — that took the American Songbook revival over the top from my perspective. [Read more…]

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The seeds of revival…

An interesting thing happened in 1983 … Linda Ronstadt — one of my favorite progressive country singers at the time — surprised everyone when she crossed over and took a flyer on a concept album with Nelson Riddle — What’s New.

Ronstadt was a already a star — a hugely successful pro-country/pop singer at the time. Her willingness to truly collaborate with masterful Nelson Riddle and take his guidance on how to approach these numbers with the style of a “Frail” singing in front of an orchestra rendered a stunningly beautiful and surprisingly successful What’s New album release. [Read more…]

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May sound like a bad law firm…

… but this “gang of five” — Nelson Riddle, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Connick Jr., Natalie Cole and Diana Krall  — were the central characters in revival of the American Songbook that took place back in the 80’s, 90’s and into the early 2000’s … they were the foundational players in the Vocal Standards slow but inexorable return to popularity.

It’s easy, sitting here today, to forget that it was not that long ago that Pop music walked away from the Great American Songbook … turning it’s back on the icons that dominated the music and entertainment industry for more than three decades. [Read more…]

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Do you ever catch yourself…

…listening to lyrics of a song you’ve known and sung for years only to REALLY HEAR THEM for the first time and go … woah.

The sudden realization of how spectacularly weird the actual words are can be jarring. I mean you’ve probably been snapping you fingers, tapping your toe and singing the song for years and then WHAM, you actually process the lyrics … maybe something like “When love congeals – it soon reveals the faint aroma of performing seals.” Uh … oh my. [Read more…]

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After spending virtually every free hour the past three weeks listening to internet radio stations to research last week’s Top Ten Standards Stations review, I couldn’t bring myself to tune in for more radio this evening … even to our normal Friday evening dining session with the station that came out on top  — Martini In The Morning.

While chatting about vocalstandards.com with my friend Casey from Canada* earlier in the day, he mentioned growing up just down the way from Diana Krall. She was “front of mind” when I started casting about for music to accompany the Baked Flounder with Tomatoes and Basil on the menu for the evening. I decided to go full A/V and put on her Live in Paris DVD and was re-blown away by how good this DVD is.

We sat down with a couple of glasses of wine and watched for a the few minutes the flounder baked off with the tomatoes, and remembered in full measure why I think this may be the single best DVD from the vocal standards genre. Diana continued her performance through dinner and we finished the Paris show back in our seats with a little limoncello (Luxardo … great stuff).

The evening inspired me to do a full review (now penciled in for early Sept) so I won’t drop a bunch of details here — this is a food blog, right?! I will say that the combination of high quality video, spectacular audio (both DolbyDigital 5.1 and DTS 5.1) and most significantly Diana at her absolute best yields a fabulous music DVD — a steal at $15.

OK, ok … on to the food! [Read more…]

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