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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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DAVID BASSE

Uptown

CAFE PACIFIC RECORDS
CPCD1255

 

 

  1. Uptown
  2. Something Fried
  3. 52nd & Broadway
  4. Like Jazz
  5. You Won't Hear Me Say Goodbye
  6. Living Without You
  7. Slow Boat To China
  8. Parker's Mood
  9. Bidin' My Timie
  10. Traffic Jam
  11. But Anyhow/The Blues Don't Care
  12. I've Got The World On A String.
David Basse: vocals; Phil Woods (alto saxophone, clarinet); Mike Melvoin (piano); Steve Gilmore (bass); Bill Goodwin (drums)

 

David Basse is a singer with hip credentials. In fact Dr Herb Wong is quoted on the otherwise note-less disc as saying that Basse is `so hip it hurts' - which sounds so Ellingtonian, it hurts.

Let's forget Dr Herb Wong. Phil Woods, who plays on the disc, says `it's the American song form raised a notch', which makes me wonder from which notch it's been raised.

Let's forget Phil. Let's just listen to his timeless alto instead, as it joins with Basse and the rhythm section of Melvoin, Gilmore and Goodwin. There are twelve tracks, five of them co-composed by pianist Melvoin, and all offer plenty of opportunities to see just how hip, or otherwise, Basse is, assuming hipness, of course, is considered a virtue and not a liability.

With his dry, occasionally hoarse voice he certainly drinks from the well of laid back hipster singers in smoky 52nd Street dives. He has personality and with a band as tight as this there isn't much room for solecism. Woods solos on alto and also clarinet - more personalised on the former, exceptionally fluent as well on the latter - and offers a variety of obbligato and soloing opportunities. Melvoin is a clever stylist, and plays exceedingly well throughout. He ranges quite widely; New York club backing one minute, and then turning on the Professor Longhair New Orleans vibe on Something Fried.

Basse is at his least convincing when turning on Jon Hendricks' or Dave Lambert's shtick, as when he does a rather forced 52nd & Broadway, and conversely he's at something like his best when singing straight ahead finger-snappers. I like his singing on Like Jazz and Melvoin's piano playing, too, with its touches of Ray Bryant. You Won't Hear Me Say Goodbye is a standout track, a filmic ballad of some depth, and the group get to the laconic heart of Johnny Mandel's Living Without You. Woods is an outstanding blues player and one of the pleasures in the set is to hear him run through his astringent lines in Parker's Mood; it's a Jimmy Witherspoon-like blues but this is assuredly no Spoon singing. It's a tarry-voiced performance and too hip by three-quarters. I did warm more to the parlando introduction to But Anyhow/ The Blues Don't Care.

A word about Gilmore and Goodwin; solid. Which means efficient and good. They help to create a fine and swinging backdrop, illuminated by Melvoin, graced by Woods and starring Basse.

Jonathan Woolf



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