Cassandra Wilson: Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Wilson & Co. undertake a major renovation on this old standard. They shift most of the tune into a tiptoeing waltz tempo. But to keep things interesting, they throw in a few bars of 5/4 during the A theme. Johann Strauss would not approve – not to mention the "questions in the eyes of other dancers." But the effect provides a neat hook, creating an unexpected delay in the delivery of the melody, and the band milks it for everything it's worth – even creating a sudden stop in the flow, hinting at a performance that is heading off the rails. Sometimes these metric tricks distract from the emotional content of a song, but not in this instance. Wilson holds on to the starry-eyed infatuation of the lyrics, even as her bandmates slice and dice the beat like a tomato in the Vegematic ("But wait! There's more!"). All in all, this is a sly updating of a World War II tune that usually gets a saccharine treatment.

May 23, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Blue Mitchell: Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Blue Mitchell assembled a stellar hard-bop band for his Blue Soul LP. But there is not much soul or bluesiness on this low-key ballad. Philly Joe Jones is very subdued and does little more than tap out the beat. Moreover, the arrangement comes across as formulaic, and makes one wonder whether this track might not have sounded better if (as with several other songs on Blue Soul) tenor and trombone had laid out. Mitchell offers up a lyrical improvisation that almost saves the day. The first 16 bars of his solo are the song's high point, but when the other horns enter at the bridge they dispel the mood that Mitchell has lovingly established. There are some fine moments here, but not enough to put this ballad on a list of essential Mitchell performances.

May 23, 2008 · 0 comments

Tags:


Paul Desmond: Polka Dots and Moonbeams

It's always the fellows you least suspect. Never loitered an unlikelier Lothario: bony, balding, bookish and bespectacled. Yet Paul Desmond was such a ladies man that his biographer Doug Ramsey devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Either Paul's playing wowed the fair sex, or his preparation. Here, for instance, Desmond cagily delegates the opening chorus to Jim Hall, enabling Paul to gently shake (not stir) his celebrated "dry-martini" alto for best effect. Then, and only then, does 007—i.e., Desmond—cozy up to this pliant standard for a brief but blissful encounter. Casanova Milquetoast scores again.

December 09, 2007 · 0 comments

Tags:


Previous Page | Next Page