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Introducing Robin McKelle

CANDID CCD 79996 [40:13]





Something’s Gotta Give
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon
Night & Day
For All We Know
You Brought A New Kind of Love *
Yes, My Darling Daughter
I’ve Got the World on A String
Come Rain or Come Shine
The Lamp is Low
On the Sunny Side of the Street

Robin McKelle (vocal); Wayne Bergeron, Gary Grant, Don Clark, Willie Murillo (trumpets), Andy Martin, Charlie Morillis, David Stout (trombones), Paul Klintworth (French horn), Bob Sheppard, Brian Scanlon (alto sax, clarinet), Gary Fox (clarinet), Pete Christlieb (tenor sax), Ray Herrmann (tenor sax, clarinet), Mark Visher (tenor sax), Glen Berger (baritone sax, clarinet), Quinn Johnson (piano), Larry Koonse (guitar), Reggie McBride (bass), Bernie Dressel (drums, percussion); unnamed string section; * Robbie Wycoff (vocal)

Recording date/place not provided.

Here’s a real throwback to the big band music of the 1940s – part, I suppose, of the movement that’s been called retro-swing. Song after song here belongs to the repertoire of the vocalists of that era and at times the experience is rather like listening to some recordings of that era which have by some sort of magic beyond the reach of mere technology acquired twenty-first century sound quality.

McKelle has a good vocal range, equally at home on hard-swinging tracks and gentler ballads. Unlike some ‘retro’ singers she doesn’t seem to have modelled herself on a single predecessor (though there are a few reminiscences of Ella Fitzgerald); she’s more eclectic than that, or perhaps one should say, in fairness, that she has really absorbed and articulated the ethos and manner of vocalists of that period and made them her own.

For the most part the songs are handled in a pretty ‘traditional’ fashion. McKelle resists the temptation to use them as vehicles for her own virtuosity (which isn’t to say that she doesn’t take some appropriate liberties), preferring to respect the words and musical structures of what are, after all, high class compositions.

I assume (it isn’t entirely clear from the packaging) that trumpeter Willie Murillo is responsible for most of the arrangements. And though no place if recording is given, it seems safe to assume that the album was made in Los Angeles, Murillo’s home base and home to many of the musicians who make up the outstanding band. Murillo’s arrangements are themselves not mere historical recreations – while remaining true to the spirit of the 1940s he allows himself some borrowings from later idioms and some inventive wit. This is striking in his arrangement of ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schon’ which ends up as a Latin number! On the ballads a Nelson-Riddle-like string section supports McKelle, working to particularly good effect on ‘For All We Know’. At the other extreme McKelle more than holds her own on the hard-driving version of ‘Something’s Gotta Give’.

There are not many opportunities for the band members to solo – a shame, since what we do hear is excellent, not least a marvellous contribution by Pete Christlieb on ‘For All We Know’ and a striking trombone solo by (I guess) Andy Martin on ‘Night & Day’. Christlieb’s solo, in particular, takes us far beyond mere ‘retro’ anything. Elsewhere there is, perhaps, just a bit too much of a sense of nostalgia about the whole thing. I suspect that McKelle, still young, will give a more individual twist to such material in a few years time. Certainly she is one worth following.

Glyn Pursglove


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