Well, sometimes recordings arrive, sit on the shelves a while and then start calling to the reviewer to pay attention.
Randy Waldman, Superheroes (BFM Jazz)
Along with his Los Angeles studio work, the veteran arranger and pianist Waldman has for years been Barbara Streisand’s arranger and accompanist. His Superheroes venture emphasizes his arranging skills. It brings together a passel of first-rate jazz soloists and sidemen to play themes from movies and television shows built around Superman, Spiderman, Batman, the Six Million Dollar Man, X-men and—well, you get the idea. Among the musicians who help to elevate the concept above what might have been a commonplace recital of themes are trumpeters Randy Brecker, Wayne Bergeron, Till Bröner, Wynton Marsalis and Arturo Sandoval; saxophonists Eddie Daniels, Chris Potter and Brandon Fields; trombonist Bob McChesney, pianist Chick Corea and guitarist George Benson.
Together and separately, drummers Steve Gadd and Vinnie Colaiuta stoke the rhythm section with remarkable energy that helps give substance to the Mighty Mouse theme, of all things, and to Waldman’s piano solo on the piece. The vocal group Take Six harmonizes the Spiderman theme. Corea makes the theme from The Incredible Hulk a reflective, almost somber, statement that includes an attractive contribution from guitarist Michael O’Neill. In all, Waldman brings surprising depth and interest to music from a remote corner of pop culture.
Kate McGarry, The Subject Tonight Is Love (Binxtown Records)
Ms. McGarry—her voice high, sweet, perfectly in tune—can be disarming when the listener becomes aware that she is giving her composition “Climb Down” the kind of toughness more likely from Lucinda Williams or Bessie Smith. Following it, she blends into the traditional Irish song “Whiskey You’re The Devil,” with guest artist Obed Calvaire’s snare drum underlining the drama of the song’s threat.
There is little of Doris Day in McGarry’s approach to one of Day’s big hits, “Secret Love.” The chirpiness of her delivery aside, she reaches into the song’s essential sadness and disappointment. McGarry’s accompanists are guitarist Keith Ganz and Gary Versace on his array of keyboard instruments including the accordion, of which he is a modern master. McGarry captures the yearning of Rogers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” and gives it balance with just the right melismatic touch of note variation. Trumpeter Ron Miles is McGarry’s guest soloist on her extremely brief nod to Lennon and McCartney, “All You Need Is Love.” Miles’s effectiveness may you wish that the track were at least twice as long.