Mitchel Forman

Sing Along with Mitch

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No, this is not an album on which veteran jazz pianist Mitchel Forman turns choral leader on a batch of cheery folk songs in the manner of Mitch Miller. Rather, it is a disc on which Forman sticks to his favored instrument in support of vocals. Forman once recorded an album in tribute to his predecessor, Bill Evans, and Sing Along with Mitch has something in common with the duo LPs Evans made with Tony Bennett, except that Forman works with more than one singer here, and the repertoire is quite different. For the most part, the standards from the Great American Songbook favored by Bennett are replaced with soft rock evergreens from the late '60s and early ‘70s written by and/or associated with the likes of the Beatles, Kenny Loggins, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, James Taylor, and the Carpenters. Like any good accompanist, Forman proves to be well attuned to his singers' styles on these performances, and he tailors his improvisations and embellishments to what the vocals are doing. This means that, for instance, with a breathy, conversational singer like Lizzy Loeb, who does Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home," Forman is delicate and lyrical. Like Robbie Wyckoff, he is smooth and soulful on "People Get Ready" and Taylor's "Close Your Eyes." But when he is supporting someone who's more of a jazz singer, say Arnold McCuller on "God Bless the Child" or Joy Burnworth on "A Sleepin' Bee," he takes far more liberties. Burnworth may have the album's greatest challenges. "A Sleepin' Bee," from the Broadway musical House of Flowers, has been masterfully done by Barbra Streisand, while "I Won't Last a Day Without You" is the possession of Karen Carpenter. Burnworth succeeds in making "A Sleepin' Bee" her own by more or less coming up with a new melody, and Forman is right there with her. "I Won't Last a Day Without You" is another story, however, as both singer and pianist don't get far enough away from the Carpenters. On the whole, however, this should be an album for jazz and pop fans familiar with the material to hear it in new and different ways.

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