Early this month, jazz vocalist Andy James and jazz bassist John Patitucci released a new collection of covers and originals to audiences in the form of An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James. The expansive record spans a total of 17 songs. The compilation is James’ second covers collection released this year, following that of Tu Amor, which was released in January., so it is kind of interesting that she has essentially book-ended the year with a pair of covers sets. As with Tu Amor, this collection is neither a total success nor a complete failure, but rather a presentation that is worth hearing occasionally. That is proven in part through the collection’s featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. On a related note, the apparent lack of any liner notes/song credits detracts notably from the record’s presentation. It will be discussed a little later. The performances of the featured songs work with the songs to help with the record’s appeal in their own right. Together with the songs, the two elements make for at least some reason for audiences to hear this collection occasionally.
John Patitucci and Andy James’ recently released covers collection, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James is a presentation that is worth hearing at least occasionally. That is due in part to the record’s featured songs. The songs in question are not just covers. A pair of originals from James – ‘To Dream As One’ and ‘Burn For Love’ – is also featured as part of the record’s body. The covers themselves are of note in that they are not limited to just jazz composition. Yes, there are a lot of jazz covers here, but james, Patitucci, and their fellow musicians also take on some pop hits, such as The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird,’ Sheriff’s ‘When I’m With You’ and James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.’ Even the jazz covers themselves are of interest because they are a mix of well-known songs and lesser-known works. Among some of the more well-known compositions featured in this collection are the likes of ‘Moonlight in Vermont, by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf; ‘I Love You and Don’t You Forget It, by Henry Mancini and Al Stillman, and ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy,’ by Cole Porter. The slightly lesser-known songs include and are not limited to ‘Angel Eyes,’ by Matt Dennis and Earl Brent; ‘Some Other Time,’ by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and ‘More Than You Know,’ by Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose, and Edward Eliscu. They are not among the most commonly covered songs in the “American Songbook.” Simply put, the songs featured in this collection provide appeal to a wide range of audiences. They also take listeners through a relatively rich history of American music. To that end, the songs featured in this compilation are reason enough for audiences to hear the record.
While the songs that are featured in John Patitucci and Andy James’ new compilation are impressive in their own right, they also lead to at least once concern. The concern in question comes in the form of an apparent lack of liner notes and song credits. Perhaps this critic received a promo copy of the collection that just so happened to lack said information. However, if in fact the record does in fact come without that information, then it does a disservice to quite a number of individuals, from the songs’ original composers to the audiences themselves. It means those composers in question are not getting credit where due, and what’s more it leaves audiences otherwise having to guess which of the record’s two originals are the noted originals. On yet another level, it means that audiences will potentially have to spend lots of time researching the songs to learn of their composers’ identities. Now on the good side, that could serve as the starting point in a bigger history lesson for audiences who are less familiar with said composers and their respective bodies of work. At the same time, the very process can and likely will prove rather tedious for audiences, regardless of that familiarity. Keeping that in mind along with the lack of deserved credit, that lack of liner notes/credit information proves notably concerning for the record’s presentation. Again, one has to hope that this issue is only presented with the record’s promotional copies and not the consumer copies. If it is indeed an issue with the consumer copies, then again, it maintains that concern. Thankfully it is not enough to make the collection a failure, but it certainly would have enhanced the listening experience in this case. Moving on from there, the performance of the record’s featured songs pairs with the songs themselves to make for at least some more enjoyment.
The performances that Patitucci, James, and company present in each song is well deserving of its own applause. The group’s performance of ‘I Love You And Don’t You Forget It.’ The original song, which was popularized by Perry Como has so much cheese to say the absolute least. The amount of cheese in the original is enough to make so many of today’s audiences cringe. It is like a really bad lounge song what with its choral effects and Latin percussion. By comparison the performance here by James, Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Chris Potter (saxophone) Alex Acuna (percussion), John Beasley (piano), and Dan Higgins (piccolo), gives the song a much needed and welcome update. The group’s performance takes the original song into account in its presentation, but gives the song more of a swing approach, focusing much more on the Latin percussion and avoiding the trappings of the vocals used in the original. The addition of the trumpets to the mix alongside the drums even gives the song something of a big band vibe. It really is a nice update to an original that while fun, is still somewhat campy in its sound and approach. To that end, this performance is just one example of the importance of the record’s featured performances. The performance of ‘Some Other Time’ is another key example of that importance.
‘The original take of ‘Some Other Time’ runs almost four and a half minutes and is relatively simple with its vocals and subtle string arrangement. That simple, subtle approach makes the song so rich and immersive. Even with what feels like a 4/4 time signature here, it still presents such a distinct waltz feeling, which adds even more to the enjoyment. It is that enjoyable. The rendition presented here, which features guest appearances by saxophonist Rick Margitza and Charles McNeal, give the song an almost entirely new identity. Gone are the strings in the original composition. In their place is that subtle mix of woodwinds alongside the equally gentle time keeping from Colaiuta and James’ own vocal delivery. Their work and that of others involved makes this song so rich in its own simplicity. It makes the song more of a piece that one might expect to hear from an upscale jazz night club in New York or Los Angeles (or some other major metro city anywhere in America) rather than on the stage. That is how distinctly different the two renditions are from one another. Each is enjoyable in its own right. That is not to be misunderstood. It is just that the group’s take here is so notable even in its own presentation here. It is just one more example of what makes the songs’ performances so important to this record’s presentation. The group’s performance of ‘Blackbird’ is yet another key example of the importance of the featured performances.
‘Blackbird’ has been covered countless times by just as many acts and artists ever since the Beatles first crafted the song decades ago. There have been some renditions that are good and others not so good. The take featured here is among the better renditions. Where the original song featured just vocals and guitar, the performance featured here steps things up, but only slightly so. The use of the strings in the group’s take pairs with James’ vocals, Patitucci’s equally subtle bass line and Acuna’s gentle work on the cymbals to make the performance in whole a borderline easy listening jazz work but still appealing in its own right. It comes across like something that one might expect to hear in the soundtrack to some movie or TV show from the 70s, but in the best way possible. It does true honor to the original work while giving the song a whole new, renewed life in this case. It is yet another example of the importance of the performances featured in this record. When it is considered along with the other performances examined here and those in the rest of the record’s works, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the collection’s featured performances. When they are considered along with the songs themselves, the two make for reason enough for audiences to hear the set at least occasionally.
John Patitucci and Andy James’ new covers collection, An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James, is a presentation that deserves at least some attention from jazz and pop music fans alike. Its appeal is due in part to its featured songs, which are covers are jazz and pop songs along with two originals from James. That intentional push to approach such a wide range of songs from such a wide range of times and figures is reason enough for audiences to hear the record. While the songs that make up the record’s body are clearly an overall positive, the seeming lack of credit for the songs detracts from the record’s presentation. The radio promo copies of the record lack any of that information, thus causing certain parties to have to do a lot of tedious research into the songs. One can only hope that the consumer copies do not also suffer from that shortcoming. If they do, then that definitely detracts from the presentation to a certain point. It is not enough to make the record a failure, but it is still a shortcoming that is unavoidable in its impact. The performances of each of the record’s featured songs rounds out the most important of its items. The performances are notable in their own right from one to the next. That is because in some cases, they pay full homage to their source material, while in others, they give the songs entirely new identities even as they pay homage to their source material. Regardless, the performances give audiences plenty to enjoy in their own right. When that enjoyment is considered along with the importance of the record’s featured songs and even the issue of the seeming lack of information on the songs, the whole makes An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James a work that audiences will find themselves enjoying at least occasionally.
An Evening With John Patitucci and Andy James is available now through Le Coq Records. More information on this and other titles from Le Coq Records is available at:
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