Bradley Williams

Songs for Swinging Sophisticates, Vol. 1

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Chicago-based pianist Williams showcases his 21st century review, a cadre of various singers and instrumentalists brought together to interpret jazz standards, certain show tunes, soul, church music, or present the occasional mainstream jazz original. A four-piece horn section plus rhythm and six different vocalists, sometimes singing together, give this a cabaret, completely non-corny show tune feel while remaining a modern jazz project. Williams himself is a very fine pianist, able to leap styles and jump into melodic invention in accordance to the diversity he dictates, but this is ostensibly a singer's revue. The modal ticktock party tune "Lulu's Back in Town" with horns and trading lines of singers Gingi Lahera, Eden Atwood, and Penny Jeffries gets the ball rolling. A fairly typical "One Note Samba" with bassist Daniel DeLorenzo's neat arrangement is started by the singing of Williams and driven by Richie Fudoli's flute or Lahera and Atwood's Brasil 66-type unison singing, with an atypical clarinet insertion by Tim McNamara. Jeffries does the gospel shout-out "Don't Give the Devil a Ride"; Jeffries, Lahera, and Atwood lay out the message of "God's Unchanging Hand"; Lahera swings "Aren't You Glad You're You"; while Atwood cops a slinky attitude on the hopeful mating search "For Every Man There's a Woman." Soulful Keli Briggs gets her feature on the ticktock-paced Bill Withers hit "Use Me," accented by Fudoli's repeated stacatto melody accents. "The Drunk's Song" is a breezy twilight-to-midnight tale told by Robert Chicoine, while Jeffries swings "Without a Song" quite well. All of these singers are excellent, especially Jeffries and the better-known Atwood, deserving showcases of their own. The instrumentals include an easily swung "There's a Boat..." for Fudoli's soprano, Tito Carillo's trumpet and Lahera's sweet singing in late, while the Woody Herman tribute "For Woody" is a little New Orleans-type shuffle. The best pieces include the hopping "Calypso" where the band stretches a bit, "Estate" is a sophisticated, moody, breezy, very slow candle melting lullaby, and the traipsing "Trading Underpants" shows Fudoli's soprano sax upfront as the multi-faceted drummer Anthony Pinciotti effortlessly weaves through horse klip klop, reggae-flavored, or circus bouncing rhythms with a free bashing coda. There's truly something for everyone on this finely crafted project, and we look forward to Vol. 2. Recommended.