Skip Heller

Career Suicide: The Essential Skip Heller 1994-2001

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Skip Heller is an overly versatile composer/performer who has managed to carve himself out a nice little niche in the farther reaches of independently produced music. Heller's resumé stretches from Yma Sumac and Les Baxter to D.J. Bonebrake and Ray Campi to scoring projects for the Cartoon Network, and Career Suicide reflects all of these pursuits and more. There are a couple fine rockabilly tracks, a few cues from films, some choice covers (Allman Brothers and LL Cool J!), and a couple standards. The real standouts, however, are the jazz tunes that Heller has put together. Some, like "Spy Perfume" and "Joey's After Dark," have a swinging jazz-noir feel, and tasty arrangements abound. In fact, many of these tunes are so evocative that they would be well served as film music. His "Raymond Scott Memorial" (performed by Uri Caine) captures the feel and fun of Scott's compositions perfectly, while the vocal asides in his cover of "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance" betray a more than casual acquaintance with Frank Zappa. "Vamos a Bailar," performed with Lalo Guerrero, is a smoking Latin R&B tune from the '50s, which is offset nicely with jazzy readings of the aforementioned "Whipping Post" and "Going Back to Cali." You'd be hard-pressed to pigeonhole the music of Skip Heller. In an era when so much music is rigidly and narrowly programmed, it's nice to find someone with the vision and ability to touch so many bases. Like Heller's earlier release, Couch, Los Angeles, the overall feel of the album is something like a mix tape, where everything and anything can belong. And it all belongs in Heller's musical world.

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