John Proulx

The Best Thing for You

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With his third CD, vocalist/pianist John Proulx broadens his musical palette to include more contemporary pop and originals to complement favorite standards. Accompanied once more by veterans Chuck Berghofer on bass and drummer Joe La Barbera, along with several guests on selected tracks, Proulx's light but warm voice and intimate piano make the most of the music. He's an accomplished interpreter of standards, opening with a brisk treatment of Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing for You (Would Be Me)" and a decidedly different bossa nova setting of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Bill Cunliffe sits in on piano as Proulx's sole accompanist for the bittersweet ballad "In the Days of Our Love," a touching composition by Marian McPartland with lyrics by Peggy Lee that deserves to be performed with more regularity. Proulx scats in unison with trumpeter Ron Stout in a delightful take of Cannonball Adderley's rarely heard "Wabash." The difference between Proulx and many younger jazz artists who try a similar path is that he has a gift for finding new approaches to pop material, while also choosing songs that have strong melodies. A perfect example is "Sing," turned into a midtempo ballad with a bossa nova undercurrent, with understated solos by acoustic guitarist Larry Koonse, Proulx, and Berghofer. His loping rendition of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" features a harmony vocal by Sara Gazarek and Jeremy Boersma's warm arco cello. The leader also uncovers a gem in Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," an excellent showcase for Bob Sheppard's soprano sax. Proulx contributed several originals, including the playful bop vehicle "Jogger Chronicles," featuring Sheppard on tenor sax and the leader's hip piano, while "Before We Say Goodnight" is another engaging bossa nova, with Sheppard adding a nice touch on flute. John Proulx's broad musical palette and ability to build upon the strengths of each song separate him from the pack of jazz artists of his generation.

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