Jonathan Feldman

Straight Ahead & Blue

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The initial foray of western New York State's Jonathan Feldman Trio into the recording studio has produced an album that shifts back and forth between Chicago-style blues and straight-ahead jazz. Consequently, there's a musical roster that includes Muddy Waters' "It's All Over" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," two distinctly different tunes rarely found on the same play list. Feldman adjusts his vocalizing to each type. On the blues numbers he takes on that bluesy timbre, while on the "regular" jazz material he is steadfastly cool. Feldman gives both a good try but his voice, high-pitched and sans vibrato, is much more effective when he is singing familiar pop classics than on songs like Don Robey's "I Smell Trouble," which has been played and sung by Bobby Blue Bland and Buddy Guy -- tough competition. He does much better with "Early in the Mornin'," which comes across more like Buddy Holly than Joe Williams. On the pop material, Feldman comes across differently, with a Chet Baker take to the lyrics. Feldman's piano is the album's main attraction. He gets down and dirty swinging when necessary, but can shift to romantic when the occasion calls for it. His bouncy version of "There Is No Greater Love" is a prime track. The other two members of the trio, Steve Gates and Laura Sommer, do a good job supporting the piano player, but their role is supportive, getting hardly any time front and center. It's not easy to combine two such diverse musical styles as Chicago blues and sophisticated swing on the same album and make it work. Feldman gives it a credible try. But he needs to work on the blues part, with a guitar added.

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