Monday, December 14, 2015

Lou Volpe Remembers Ol' Blue Eyes

A guitarist who transcends the realms of jazz, R&B and adult contemporary, Lou Volpe's newest recording is his salute to Frank Sinatra whose centennial was in 2015. "Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra)" (Jazz Guitar Records) has him performing 13 standards that are associated with Sinatra to which Volpe provides his personal interpretation while displaying his virtuosity and melodic sense. On eleven selections, Volpe is joined in a supportive role by Delmar Brown, Mel Davis and Onaje Allen Gumbs on keyboards; bassists Stanley Banks and Leo Traversa; Buddy Williams and Gary Fritz on drums and percussion respectively; with drummer Sipho Kunene offering his talents on one track. On the other three selections he plays solo.

There is plenty to like about listening to Volpe with spectacular single-note runs, riveting chordal playing, rich smears, edgy twang, swirling crescendos, filigreed delicacy and more backed by the various backing trios for performances that mix melodic ornamentation and scintillating improvisations. The Brazilian groove underlying the rendition of "Speak Low," while the rendition of "It Was A Very Good Year," with Gumbs on keyboards is taken in a R&B tinged vein with plenty of smears and twang against the simple, steady groove.

Volpe has big ears and there are tinges of Wes Montgomery on a swinging "A Foggy Day," while the late night melancholy of "One For The Road," is given a lively reworking with some twang and snap from the leader. "Days of Wine and Roses" is a lovely performance with Volpe effectively using overdub as he takes his lead over a simple chordal backing. Much the same can be said of the extremely lovely "Softly As I Leave You." There is more exquisite playing on the closing selection, Carlos Santana's "Europa" subtitled by Lou "(Dedicated to the Brilliance of Frank)," again with just Volpe and his guitars.

While I found a couple selections, such as "That's Life," not completely successful, "Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra)" is easy to listen to and full of considerable musical substance. He may be a guitar virtuoso, but Lou Volpe also is one who knows how to intrigue and entertain his listeners.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is "I'll Remember April" from the release. 

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