Richard Freitas,
Tootsie Tunes
(Dovetail, 2005)

Stride jazz piano is an odd little genre. Most people wouldn't know the name for it if they heard it; and almost everybody has heard it, and would nod their heads in pleased recognition if they heard it again. You've heard stride jazz before; it's the soundtrack of flickering black-and-white voiceless movies where the hero faints and the villain twirls his mustache, the music of old cartoons where the furniture dances. It's unavoidably nostalgic, irresistibly cheerful music.

With Tootsie Tunes, Richard Freitas fully embraces that nostalgia, with delightful results. From the first notes of "Tootsie Toes," his piano doesn't just stride; it jaunts, it jives, it positively struts along the open arrangements and colorful melodies Freitas creates for it. Piano is an instrument often reserved for serious or moody music. Here the black-and-white keys seem to have put on their play clothes. The sly mischief of "Come & Catch Me" smiles from every note. Freitas's compositions are a reminder that dance music is no recent invention. There's no touch of the latest rhythms in "The Zig Zag Rag" or the homage to "My Man Fats," but there's no way to keep from dancing in time with these rag-styled tunes. The lazy afternoon notes of "Sassparilla for Two" and "Saturday at the Bijou" recalls streets long lost to history to memories that have never seen them, and have fun to boot. Just the names of Freitas's sunny tunes invite a smile: "Sweet & Sour Pickles," "Penny Candy," "Rag Doll Rag." Every one is as simple and sweet as the name implies. And Freitas plays every note with the enthusiasm and exuberance that gives the music its fundamental spirit.

Tootsie Tunes won't blow you away with new sounds and elaborate arrangements. You've heard music like it before, even if you didn't know what you were hearing. But odds are you've never heard such a varied collection of it so well played. For anyone willing to let themselves go, relax and just smile at their music, Tootsie Tunes is a thoroughly enjoyable treat.

by Sarah Meador
11 March 2006

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