Burt Bacharach, Greg Phillinganes, Marilyn Scott + others: Five for the Road

Five for the Road is an occasional look at the compact discs and / or downloads that have been in my car recently – some new, some old …

CHRIS GREENE QUARTET – BOUNDARY ISSUES (2017): Evanston, Illinois-based Chris Greene’s music always makes for great road music, and Boundary Issues is no exception. Greene and his long-term band blends stunning new compositions like “Thunder Snow (written by piano player Damian Espinosa) and “The Crossover Appeal” (written by Greene) with daring and original interpretations of masterworks by Horace Silver (“Nico’s Dream”) and Kenny Kirkland (“Dienda”). The combination works, as the front line has a telepathic relationship with the rhythm section of bassist/composer Marc Piane and drummer Steve Corley. Boundary Issues has a more aggressive funkier feel than Music Appreciation, but is unmistakably jazz played by master players who continue to evolve.

MARILYN SCOTT – STANDARD BLUE (2017): An accomplished jazz vocalist, Marilyn Scott tackles 10 jazz favorites – and does so with gusto. The material on Standard Blue is very familiar, but that’s all forgiven when Scott delivers on songs like “Willow Weep for Me.” Suddenly what’s old is new again, as Scott breathes life into the Russell Ferrante arrangement. Standard Blue is sympathetically co-produced by Jimmy Haslip and Erick Zobler (along with Scott). They surrounded her with a who’s who of great musicians including Michael Landau on guitar, Gary Novak on drums and Ferrante on keyboards. Yet, the real star remains Marilyn Scott’s timeless interpretations of timeless songs.

BEN CRAVEN – THE SINGLES EDITS (2017): Listening to Ben Craven’s prior album Last Chance To Hear nearly put my driver’s license in danger. No surprise, then, that the album made my year-end ten list, with its big picture prog-rock vision and Craven’s spot-on execution. Recently, Craven released a recording of his record release party for the album and a Blu-ray/DVD called First Chance To Hear, which also amazes with Craven’s live execution of these prog epics and reinforces Craven’s storytelling acumen. The Singles Edits gives you shorten versions. Each song stands on its own and is powerful. “The Remarkable Man” and “Aquamarine” are great examples of Craven’s power and precision. The Singles Edits is a must own for Ben Craven completists like me, and for prog rock fans looking to be inspired again.

GREG PHILLINGANES – PULSE (1984): I wore out my vinyl copy of this long ago, and never thought Greg Phillinganes’ Pulse would be released on CD and digital. Well, here we are and with bonus tracks. What’s the big deal? Philliganes is a master musician/band leader and arranger. (Ever heard of Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder?) He’s also a fantastic live performer and singer. (Ever heard of Toto or Eric Clapton?) His discography is almost as long as Steve Lukather’s, and he’s still influencing recording sessions today. Pulse is a fine pop album with touches of dance music, synth pop and R&B. Greg Phillinganes’ version of Donald Fagen’s “Lazy Nina” is my favorite – and that’s saying something, considering Monkey House and Arnold McCuller have recorded stellar versions of the song. The lead-off track “Behind The Mask” has a Michael Jackson feel which is unmistakable partly due to the fact that Michael Jackson co-wrote it. This version totally eclipses the one later issued by Eric Clapton. If you only know Greg Philliganes from his piano solo on Donald Fagen’s “Ruby Baby” from the Nightfly, then you owe it to yourself the play this album while you are blazing down the highway.

BURT BACHARACH AND TONIO K – ORIGINAL DEMOS (2017): What do you get when you put a pop songwriting legend with a contemporary songstress? Hit song after hit song? Original Demos is just that. These 14 songs, presented in their raw demo form, reveal Burt Bacharach’s true musical craft and wonder. “If I Should Lose You” is the first composition of the songwriting duo, and is a gem. The song, notably recorded by Chicago as an added studio track to Chicago XXVI: The Live Album, still retains its intensity even as a demo, where it was sung by Billy Valentine. “Never Take That Chance Again” is even more stunning, with its compassionate delivery by the late Warren Wiebe. The romance and anguish is as clear on the demo as it was on the Diane Schuur release. “Count On Me,” a song which found its way onto 2014’s Here I Am: Isley Meets Bacharach threatens to eclipse the studio version, with Bill Champlin providing a demo vocal with amazes. This is a 2017 must own.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier