Thursday, August 21, 2014

Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


It’s always great when developing a review of a new recording to have someone do the “heavy-lifting” in terms of preparing all of the pertinent details.


It allows me to jump in at the outset with my impressions of the recording.


Such is the case in this instance.


Holly Cooper and her fine publicity team at MouthpieceMusic.com sent along detailed track listings, annotations and personnel information for Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook which was released by Bi-Coastal Music [Bi-Coastal Music BCCD-1401] on August 12, 2014 and I have posted these below.


So here are my impressions


Some recordings put a smile on my face and  Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook [Bi-Coastal Music BCCD-1401] does so from a number of perspectives.


It all begins with the gorgeous sound of Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield’s voices and the control they have over them as instruments.


Someone once wrote that the human voice is the most beautiful of all  instruments and after listening to Ginger and Scott on this recording, it is difficult to argue with this assertion.


From every standpoint - enunciation, range, timing, phrasing, dynamics, blending, lyric expressiveness - the sonority of Ginger and Scott vocalizing individually and together is so very pleasing to the ear.


No straining, no over-convincing, no crassessing of lyrics to the point of strangulation, no histrionics - all the things that make the listener wince when a vocalist is trying too hard - it all just flows because Ginger and Scott are accomplished singers. And they make it sound so effortless.


It helps, too, that the context that they have chosen in which to display their vocal talents is the music of Johnny Mandel.


No one writes more captivating music than does Johnny Mandel especially when his melodies are combined with lyrics by the likes of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Dave Frishberg, Arthur Hamilton, Dave Frishberg, Paul Williams and Johnny Mercer.


The high level of musicianship that is maintained throughout the recording - whether it is presented in big band fashion, small group setting or individual accompaniment - takes all the music sung and performed on Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook to a level of professionalism that only skilled studio musicians can achieve.


Over the years, I’ve always marveled at the way in which studio musicians can read down complicated arrangements and literally play them off to perfection within the span of a normal recording session [usually 3 hours]. Some of them are required to solo as well and I smiled again and again when the likes of tenor saxophonist, Pete Christlieb, trumpeters Steve Huffsteter, Anne King and Carl Saunders, clarinetists Ken Peplowski and Donnie Shelton, the alto saxophone of Rusty Higgins, the solo guitar work of Jack Petersen and, of course, Scott Whitfield on trombone, was brought into the solo spotlight.


The rhythm section of Corey Allen on piano, Jennifer Leitham on bass and Kendall Kay on drums provide a beautiful “heartbeat of Jazz” throughout and Airto Moriera does percussion on some tracks in the inimitable, graceful style that has made him such a special player for so many years.


The performances on this CD ooze the competence that only seasoned studio musicians can bring to a date. This stuff is hard to play, but you’d never know it from the way that everyone on these dates reads the charts down.


And speaking of “charts,” the arrangements are all written by Scott and they are a perfect compliment and complement to Johnny Mandel’s music. Johnny’s melodies, a half-century later, are familiar to all of us and yet you've never heard them sung and played quite like this before.


That’s true originality: to take music that has become familiar almost to the point of being taken for granted [Heaven forbid], and make it sound fresh by imbuing it with a new sense of vitality and energy. It is almost as though Johnny Mandel wrote these themes yesterday instead of, in some cases, over fifty years ago.


Kudos must also go to Andy Waterman and his assistants Ashburn Miller, Luke Fackler, Steve Wilk and Dustin Higgins for the brilliant audio quality that they have crafted which serves to further enhance, highlight and refine the music and the musicianship on this CD.. As a result of their engineering skills, the music pops, sparkles and envelopes the listener in the richness of its sound.


If you are looking for something to beam about, you need look no farther than Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook.


I can almost guarantee that you will come away from a first listening of the music on this CD with a huge smile of approval on your face.


© -  Holly Cooper/Mouthpiece Music, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“Bl-COASTAL MUSIC RELEASES
'SOLITARY MOON - GINGER BERGLUND & SCOTT WHITFIELD SING THE JOHNNY MANDEL SONGBOOK"
RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 12, 2014


"Solitary Moon - Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook is a labor of love and a remarkable tribute to one of the most iconic composers and musicians of the last 60 years. It pairs both well-known and rare gems composed by Mandel with innovative arrangements by Whitfield.


From the big band sound of Cinnamon and Clove to the small combo grouping on Little Did I Dream to the intimate interplay between Berglund and Jack Petersen's solo guitar on You Are There, "Solitary Moon" is a marvelous tribute to a seminal composer, performed by an esteemed collective of top-notch musicians and led by the formidable team of Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield.


Berglund and Whitfield are a world class musical duo, whom critics have often compared to the legendary jazz vocal duo Jackie & Roy (Jackie Cain and Roy Krai). All About Jazz said, "Like Jackie & Roy, Ginger & Scott sing with warmth, awareness and sincerity, combining urbane lyrics with enchanting melodies and sharp interplay to create music that ensnares the mind as well as the heart."

Ginger Berglund is a highly regarded vocalist who has recorded for Steve Allen, the original host of the Tonight Show, and with the great pianist Paul Smith. She has sung with Kenny Rankin and cut her teeth in the music business working for the great Brazilian jazz vocalist Flora Purim and her husband, the premiere fusion jazz percussionist Airto Moreira. She performs with the Stan Kenton Alumni Band, The Modernaires, the Tracy Wells Big Band, and the Jumpin' Joz Band. Berglund has also acted and sung in commercials and has recorded for many songwriters, both classical and popular.


Scott Whitfield is a much admired trombonist, arranger and singer. He is internationally recognized for his work with many contemporary big bands, including the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, The Clare Fischer Big Band, The Bill Holman Band, The Phil Norman Tentet, for which he also arranges, and his own Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestras (East and West). Whitfield's discography includes 10 recordings as leader and more than 50 recordings with other artists. His compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by many instrumentalists and vocalists.


Among his many musical adventures, Whitfield also plays trombone for the Johnny Mandel Orchestra. He says, "I'm lucky to call Johnny a friend and experience his music on a personal level. He's a giant in the music world, and I wanted to salute him on a grand scale for his incredible contributions to American culture."

Berglund and Whitfield chose 15 tracks for this project, which Whitfield arranged in a variety of styles, from big band to small group, from vocal duets to a cappella five-part harmony. Berglund notes, "Johnny has written so many beautiful melodies to choose from, and Scott's arrangements are a study of melody and harmony." No matter the style, Whitfield's arrangements imbue each composition with heart and an infectious swing feel.


Berglund and Whitfield are also part of the Modernaires, the legendary vocal group famous for performing in the 1940s for Glenn Miller's band. Whitfield is also the group's musical director. Here they perform a poignant a cappella version of Where Do You Start. Whitfield is also a member of LAVA (Los Angeles Vocal Alliance), a new vocal group of brass players who sing in four-part harmony. They make their recording debut on Whitfield's swinging version of the enduring classic Emily, and they wonderfully capture the humor of Dave Frishberg's droll lyrics for El Cajon.

Each of the musicians on this CD is a stellar performer with his or her own long list of accomplishments. According to Berglund, "There are so many world-class musicians in Southern California, we wish we could have showcased even more of them... but Scott did an amazing job working around their busy schedules to get them into the studio to achieve the sound he wanted."


The core of the music is the rhythm section made up of Corey Allen on piano, Jennifer Leitham on bass, and Kendall Kay on drums, who are all busy, in-demand players and long-time friends and collaborators of Whitfield. Listen to the bluesy give-and-take between Whitfield and Leitham on Vacation From The Blues to hear two masters play off each other with seamless familiarity. The wonderful Bergman lyrics on the title track, Solitary Moon, are beautifully evoked by Airto's beguiling rhythms and Allen's pensive piano solo.


The musicians on this project are: Ginger Berglund, voice; Scott Whitfield, voice, trombone; Airto Moreira, percussion; Anne King, trumpet, flugelhorn;; Billy Kerr, alto sax; Carl Saunders, trumpet; Corey Allen, piano; Don Shelton, clarinet; Ira Nepus, trombone; Jack Petersen, guitar; Jamie Hovorka, trumpet; Jennifer Leitham, bass; John Dickson, horn; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Kendall Kay, drums; Kye Palmer, trumpet; Linda Small, trombone; Nancy Newman, baritone sax; Pete Christlieb, tenor sax, clarinet; Rich Bullock, bass trombone; Roger Neumann, tenor sax, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Rusty Higgins, alto sax, flute, alto clarinet; Stephanie O'Keefe, horn; Steve Huffsteter, trumpet; THE MODERNAIRES (Julie Dickinson, Ginger Berglund, Jimmy Stephens, Joe Croyle, Scott Whitfield); LAVA (Jonathan Dane, Larry Williams, Scott Whitfield, Rich Bullock), vocals.”

Track Listing
1.  Cinnamon & Clove (6:13)
2.  Little Did I Dream (4:19)
3.  Solitary Moon (5:04)
4.  First (4:53)
5.  The Shadow Of Your Smile (3:56)
6.  El Cajon (4:05)
7.  Close Enough For Love (3:53)
8.  A Waltz From Somewhere (4:24)
9.  Where Do You Start? (3:08)
10.  Vacation From The Blues (4:40)
11.  You Are There (4:07)
12.  Sure As You're Born (4:23)
13.  I Never Told You (4:01)
14.  Emily (5:16)
15.  I Won't Believe My Eyes (4:41)

Order information is available at CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon and www.officialgingerandscott.com/


You can sample the opening track - Cinnamon & Clove - on the following video montage.

1 comment:

  1. Listed as 'released as an MP3 download' next week by Amazon here in UK - that will keep me going until the real thing comes along .....CONGRATULATIONS Ginger and Scott ( and CERRA jazz for the slick production of the video.)

    ReplyDelete

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