Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"You Are There" Kills, Just Not in a Good Way

The death in the title does not refer to the career of either Roberta Gambarini or Hank Jones; they are both too well-established at this point for that, and the magazines seem to love this album. Nor does it refer to the Emarcy label; for what it is, this record will probably make a lot of money, maybe even get nominated for some grammies. The death in the title refers to my own death, due to boredom, about halfway through this record. I was jolted back by an energetic reading of "Suppertime," which, while incredible in the context of an album bogged down by so much painful cliche and balladry so flat as to be kosher for passover that not even the great Hank Jones can save it, would sound just as painfully cliched in any other context.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I have some sort of prejudice against vocal jazz (although, admittedly, I do); it's not so much that its a bad jazz album (which it is- especially terrible in light of 2007's great "Kids" duet album Jones did with Joe Lovano) but that it's a terrible, boring vocal jazz album. My girlfriend once called Brad Mehldau's "Art of the Trio Vol. 3" (I believe I've mentioned before that it is my favorite record of his) "good dinner music," which it is, and I think a lot of people will think of "You Are There" as good dinner music, which, I suppose, it is also. Gambarini's voice is pleasing, and Jones tinkles away at the piano like he always does, but don't get me wrong, this album is nothing more than dinner music.

There have been great recent vocal jazz records recently (Gretchen Parlato's self titled debut springs to mind, as does Herbie Hancock's Grammy winning "River," on which half the tracks had vocals), but this is not one of them. I'd buy this album if you plan on having a dinner party where people don't talk too loudly but still have no interest in paying attention to the music, or if you don't already have any album by, say, Diana Krahl, and think that the pleasing sounds of a female jazz singer singing the same way as any other female jazz singer could be therapeutic. If neither of these applies to you, avoid it like the plague.

Also: Jimmy Giuffre died a few days ago. He was a brilliant saxophonist and composer whose innovations with his trio helped pave the way for free music, albeit a quiet, lyrical strain of free music. If you are interested, there is a video of him with his trio (Jim Hall and Steve Swallow round it out) on youtube, and a well-written obituary can be found here.

1 comment:

vin said...

You couldn't be anymore wrong,you could try but, you would fail.