Gary LeMel

Moonlighting

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The title of this album means what it says. A top executive with Warner Bros. Movies, Gary LeMel is Moonlighting with this album of vocals, many associated with LeMel's favorite singer, the talented Bobby Darin. This undertaking represents a return to the performing venue for LeMel who, at the age of 17, toured with Anita O'Day before turning to the business side of music. On the first cut, "Skylark," there is an overwhelming intro with strings and high-powered jazz trumpet creating expectations that what's to follow is the strong, deep voice of the singer. Not so. What comes is LeMel's comparatively gentle voice. As often happens when there are a lot of instruments involved, there is a tendency to over arrange. But once the let down from the failure to meet expectations passes, there is enough good stuff on this album to allow the listener to tolerate the occasional saccharine orchestrations. First, while no Darin, LeMel's voice is pleasant. He's got rhythm, good phrasing and pacing, and fine diction. Second, he has brought together a crème de la crème cast of supporting musicians like master drummer Elvin Jones, the brothers Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker, Lloyd Stripling, Lew Soloff, Steve Khan, and, especially, Roger Kellaway, who has the dual role of pianist and conductor. He keeps this large and complex proceeding under control. Then there are some neat interpretations. "Mack the Knife," with its bizarre setting produced by slightly off-pitched reeds and strings resulting in a scenario that is probably closer to what Kurt Weill had in mind than the popular versions of either Darin or Louis Armstrong. Lloyd Stripling does the trumpet solo and Steve Khan gets in some licks with the banjo. "Easy Living" is done with an unusual combination of instruments: Michael Brecker's tenor sax, Roger Kellaway's piano, and Richard Locker's cello. Kellaway's piano helps to offset the dark tones of the cello, while Brecker's John Coltrane-influenced tenor adds just the right bittersweet seasoning allowing this arrangement to work. Pop star Paula Cole guests with LeMel on "Call Me Irresponsible." "Beyond the Sea" is another big production with heavy Kellaway's piano, cascading strings, Warren Chaizon's vibes, Lloyd Stripling's moderating muted trumpet noodling in the background, and Elvin Jones' drums driving everybody and everything. A bit much, but fun. Once you move beyond unrealized expectations and some turgid orchestrations, this album has enough to offer to justify going out and buying it.

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