Babs Gonzalez / Googie Rene

From Romesville to Manhattan

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Although this CD is billed to Googie Rene and Babs Gonzales, it's not a collaboration between the two musicians. Instead, it combines two late-'50s LPs that were originally billed separately to Rene and Gonzales. They're entirely unrelated, other than that, both of the albums, working in different ways, existed on the fringe of the jazz scene that drew from pop, beatnik culture, and the beginnings of what would be called swinging bachelor pad music. The first of these, Rene's Romesville, is actually about as good as it gets for such things, even if you're inclined to look down your nose at these sort of albums as cheesy affairs. Rene's compositions (all co-written with his father, Leon Rene) have a real sly cinematic verve, drawing engagingly on passing trends of the era with judicious touches of bongos, blaring film noir horns, cha-cha, and Cuban music. Combined with traces of pseudo-European styles, they bring to mind soundtracks to travelogs of affluent adventurers getting in and out of trouble all over the globe. Gonzales' Tales of Manhattan takes a different hipster angle, as the vocalist semi-recites light-hearted New York narratives while a commercial (but not off-puttingly so) brand of cool jazz plays in the background. King Pleasure it ain't (let alone Oscar Brown, Jr.), but Gonzales' rhythmically shrewd, jive phrasing is good period fun, though it's a little on the safe side as far as slice-of-life New York fables go. While never intended to be packaged side by side, the albums do go pretty well together if you've a yen for this particular kind of late-'50s ambience, and the two-for-one CD is a good value, though it doesn't offer much in the way of background annotation.