Gail Pettis, May I Come In? (Origin). In her recording debut, the Seattle singer chooses a mixture of familiar standards and less-well-known songs, delivering them with warmth and intelligent interpretation. Pettis concentrates on serving songwriters’ intentions, but her delighted treatment of Jimmy McHugh’s “I Just Found Out About Love” includes one of two scatting episodes in the collection. She scats with musicianly understanding of harmony. There is not a lot of that going around among singers. Pettis gives “Black Coffee” its bluesy due but avoids the affected emotion with which many singers are tempted to smother the song.
In “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face,” bassist Jeff Johnson, with his customary strength and sensitivity, is the singer’s sole accompanist. “We’ve Met Before” is a duet between Pettis and pianist Randy Halberstadt. With this lovely song, Halberstadt may have composed a new standard. He and Johnson are on half of the tracks. On the other half, Darin Clendenin is the pianist, Clipper Anderson the bassist, Pacific Northwest stalwarts in good form, as is Mark Ivester, who plays drums throughout. Pettis keeps her considerable vocal power in reserve, using it with restraint and taste. In the burgeoning population of new singers, she is a standout.
Dave Brubeck, Indian Summer (Telarc). Brubeck’s solo piano excursion through the autumn of his life has Brahmsian gravity, dignity and reflection. It also has moments of playfulness and no lack of harmonic audacity, as in his polytonal opening bars of “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You.” He includes “Sweet Lorraine,” “Memories of You” and “Indian Summer” along with other standards and a few of his own tunes, among them “Summer Song” and his tribute to Chopin, “Thank You.” He reaches back to his youth for the anthem of his college, reharmonized and movingly expressed. Brubeck has taken a lot of knocks for the vigor of his playing. Here, he reminds us that at the lower end of his dynamic range he has one of the softest touches of any pianist–and those harmonies, still daring after all these years. This is one for quiet evenings in front of the fire.
Joe Chindamo, Smokingun (Newmarket Music). A couple of weeks ago, in reviewing Karrin Allyson’s performance with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra, I wrote:
Allyson sang with her customary charm, musicianship and irrepressible energy, occasionally spelling pianist Joe Chindamo at the keyboard while he played accordian. Chindamo, an Australian new to me, was impressive as an accompanist and in solo. His piano chorus on Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time,” alluding to Bill Evans, was a highlight of the evening.
Later that week, I heard Chindamo (pronounced Kin-dámo) at greater length when Allyson and her quartet played The Seasons, and was thoroughly taken with his playing. From there, they went to New York for a week at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. His tour with Allyson ended, Chindamo is back in Melbourne where he is a mainstay of Australian jazz and of movie sound stages. Listening to his trio’s CD Smokingun, with alto saxophonist Graeme Lyall as guest artist, I understand why. He assembles a potpourri of tunes that would seem unlikely album mates and makes sense of them individually and as a collection, even while giving them unconventional treatments. Slow versions of “Take Five” (Chindamo on accordian) and “The Entertainer” (Chindamo on piano, Lyall slinky on soprano sax), “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” and Dvorak’s “Going Home” theme succeed in deliciously different ways. Joni Mitchell’s “God Must Be a Boogie Man” becomes an adventure in pointilism and rhythm shifts. Chindamo and Lyall liberate the improvisational possibilities in two unlikely movie themes, “The Magnificent Seven” and “Goldfinger.”
Lyall manages to refer to Paul Desmond’s style without imitating Desmond except for what seems to be an affectionate outright tribute in “Look For the Silver Lining.” He and the trio work together with the kind of reactive empathy that Desmond and Brubeck often achieved, although the resemblance of this group to the Brubeck quartet doesn’t go much beyond the instrumentation. Bassist Phil Rex and drummer David Beck, also little known outside Australia, are world class.
This video of Chindamo playing “But Not For Me” at Italy’s Umbria festival in 2005 will acquaint you with his solo style. At the end of another clip, with his trio, he delivers to his fellow Australians a confidence-building speech about their cultural uniqueness. It would seem inevitable that we non-Aussies will be hearing more from Joe Chindamo.