Joey DeFrancesco

Singin' and Swingin'

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Joey DeFrancesco the jazz organist meets Joey DeFrancesco the Sinatra-style crooner on this, his first vocal outing. The album is rich in contrasts: eight of the 13 cuts feature a big band, with the likes of bassist Ray Brown, tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb, and more; the rest are trio pieces featuring the leader, Paul Bollenback, on guitar and Byron Landham on drums. Vocally, DeFrancesco pours it on with beaucoup reverb (producer John Burk and engineer Bernie Kirsh could have backed off a bit), handling swingers like "Mack the Knife" and ballads like "They Say It's Wonderful" with equal poise and conviction. His organ is present on many of the vocal tracks, but it moves to the fore on the three instrumental originals: "Mr. Dennis Houlihan," a fast rhythm changes tune; "Did You Hear Him Holler," a tongue-in-cheek Cajun groove; and "The Sidewalk Is Wild," a sly big band shuffle that features the leader briefly on trumpet. DeFrancesco also gives his voice a rest on the swing classic "One Mint Julep," the penultimate "Danny Boy," done as a powerful trio ballad, and the closing standard, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." DeFrancesco's vocal affect is quite similar to Sinatra's, especially on songs closely associated with him, like "In the Wee Small Hours," one of the all-around best selections. Some won't be able to get past the hammy aspect of the album, but the fact is that DeFrancesco really can sing, and "if you've got it, flaunt it" is a worthy credo for any performer. You've got to applaud him for taking the plunge.

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