Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cafe Society (Soundtrack)

Cafe Society (Soundtrack)
Sony Classical

A soundtrack to the new Woody Allen film of the same name, "Cafe Society" is a curious collection of a number of new performances of classic songs by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks mixed with several from classic 78s. 8 of the 15 songs (selected by Allen) were composed by Rogers and Hart, and the other songs mostly are classics of the American songbook. I have not seen the film so make no comment on it .

The personnel for Giordano and his group includes Giordano on bass, Chris Flory or Vinny Raniola on guitar, Mark Shane on piano and Christopher Gelb on drums. What is surprising is the lack of horns in the band and while the crisply played performances may be delightful, if the movie is supposed to conjure up swing music that was featured at the actual Cafe Society, Barney Josephson's pioneering club that was the first racially integrated nightclub in the United States. The Nighthawks come across almost as a gypsy jazz band with the music not bearing relationship to what was played by the Boogie Woogie Trio, Billie Holiday, Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, Al Casey, Eddie Barefield, and the likes. A vocal by Kat Edmondson backed by The Nighthawks on Rogers & Hart's "Mountain Greenery" has charm but far removed from Holiday singing "Strange Fruit."

This is not to say there is anything bad about the new performances. Pianist Shane has a deft touch displayed nicely on the ballad "Manhattan" and the sprite treatment of "My Romance," the latter of several tracks where Flory distinguishes himself. Of note is the YeraSon trio's marvelous rendition of "The Peanut Vendor," followed by a restrained rendition of "Out of Nowhere" by Conal Fowkes on piano, Brian Naepka on bass and John Gill on drums. Fowkes' spirited stride-rooted piano does delight on "This Can't Be Love," a performance that perhaps captures the actual Cafe Society spirit. Still the musical highlight of this album is an alternate take of the Count Basie classic, "Taxi War Dance" with some marvelous Lester Young, while Benny Goodman's "I Didn't Know What Time It Is," also notable.

The music on this soundtrack is quite congenial and listenable although not as exciting or passionate as might have been found at the actual Cafe Society where Barney Josephson persuaded Lena Horne to stop singing "When Its Sleepy Time Down South."

I received a review download from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the November-December  Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 369). Here is a trailer for the movie that I now realize has to do with a Hollywood venue, and not the legendary Greenwich Village venue. Not sure if it would have affected my review of the quality of the music although I would not have made some of the references contained here.


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