Beegie Adair, with |
the Jeff Steinberg Orchestra,
I'll Take Romance
(Hillsboro Jazz, 2002)
I'll Take Romance is a rich, mellow album returning to the luxurious sound of the '50s and '60s, the tunes retaining their familiarity yet imparting a pleasant freshness courtesy of the improvisation of the talented Beegie Adair and the customized arrangements of Jeff Steinberg.
Adair and her fellow musicians (Roger Spencer on bass and Chris Brown on drums) recorded the songs first, then Steinberg listened to the trio's performances and composed the orchestral arrangements. The process retains the spontaneity and interplay between the established trio and allows the orchestration to perfectly complement the jazz improvisations, spotlighting Beegie's melodies without swamping them with orchestral force. The addition of the woodwind, horn and strings adds depth and underlines the character of the jazz piano, but stops well short of turning the tracks into easy-listening "muzak."
The album is, naturally, easy to listen to, but the impetus of the rhythms and the strong melodies prevent any hint of the desiccating blandness that can unfortunately insinuate into music like this. The 12 tracks are all romantic classics: Rogers and Hart's "Isn't It Romantic," Oscar Hammerstein's "I'll Take Romance" and "Some Enchanted Evening," Jerome Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" alongside other standards such as "These Foolish Things," "Let's Fall In Love" and "Dancing in the Dark." The original tunes are wonderful, redolent with memory and much loved, and Beegie keeps a firm and competent hand on the melody, allowing for instant recognition, while subtly defining each as her own through her jazz improvisations.
Beegie Adair has quite a working history, playing with a multitude of "big names" in concert, in the recording studio and during her time as in-house pianist on Radio WSM and ABC-TV. She brings to this album all the experience and expertise of decades in the music business and her collaboration with Steinberg (himself a jazz pianist) is inspirational, resulting in a delightful sound. I'll Take Romance should find equal popularity with those who remember this richly defined style from the last century, and those newly aware of the rewarding sound of this genre. The jazz is skillful and yet not over-complex for the uninitiated and the orchestration will satisfy any fan of popular orchestra. It is a definite crowd-pleaser without ever being middle of the road.
Recording began on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, delayed as the Beegie Adair Trio all watched with horror as the extent of the terrorism unfolded on television, and so it is with genuine justification that they dedicate the album to the brave emergency personnel and volunteers in New York and Washington. The dedication of the people deserves whatever meagre accolades any other industry can award; however, I was reassured to read that this had some substance and was not merely another voice on the show-business bandwagon of routine sympathy.
I'll Take Romance is a smooth production, gliding over one's ears like satin. It is music you can sink into, like a fabulously decadent velvet sofa -- music for dancing cheek-to-cheek, ideal for candlelight and the warmth of good company. This music has distinctly tasty complexities you can relish at leisure, much as a connoisseur would enjoy a superb wine or an old whiskey. This is a firm favourite already!
[ by Jenny Ivor ]