Multi-talented Boston denizen Krisanthi Pappas used her first LP to establish her vocal credentials by recording a tribute to the music of George & Ira Gershwin. A musical fairy tale that recalls her childhood, Pappas' subsequent My Back Yard is an album that adults will also enjoy. If this album really reflects Pappas' childhood, then she must have had a wonderful time growing up.
Every child's fantasy is indulged in with the opening medley from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Here (and elsewhere), Pappas shows her significant scatting skills, which are moved along by John Payne's clarinet. Her version of "A-Tisket A-Tasket" is different than Ella Fitzgerald's. She takes this jazz nursery rhyme and turns it into a wild, swinging, Brazilian romp, with some authoritative drumming by John Di Santo. This album has other surprises. Pappas turns to soft rock in the Joni Mitchell and Carole King mode with her own "Wayne," featuring fine bass playing by Steve Skop. But it is with the Wizard of Oz medley (which does not include "Over the Rainbow") that the gaiety reaches delirious proportions. "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" is a swinging song of celebration and triumph, while the other two selections are stages for some excellent soloing by members of the rhythm section. The dreams, hopes, pains, and joys of moving through and out of childhood are captured in "Growing Up Medley," delivered with a conviction that is honed by experience. Then there's a segue into a questioning and then demanding request for someone to "Teach Me Tonight."
Pappas' talents extend far beyond just singing. She wrote several of the compositions for this session, the words for which are reproduced in the liner notes. The arrangements, except for one cut, are hers. She plays piano on "Reflections" and then drums on "Here's to Toughy McGhee." With respect to the latter, Elvin Jones and Jake Hanna need not worry -- but she does not embarrass herself by any means. Payne does some fine R&B-like sax honking on this cut. Like Pappas, he is multi-talented, contributing sax, clarinet, and flute on most every track.
If there were a jazz style category called "Fun," that's where this album belongs. Pappas' second effort solidly ensconces her among the upper reaches of the hierarchy of current jazz singers and screams out for greater recognition.