Abbie Gardner,
My Craziest Dream
(Gimme Some Ribs, 2004)

When I first popped in Abbie Gardner's CD My Craziest Dream, I was easily transported back in time to when jazz was great. I really enjoy jazz from the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Apparently, so does Abbie. This isn't surprising. Her father, Herb, is a jazz pianist. From a young age, Abbie sang along with Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald on the record player. Now, she claims, she was able to "live that dream" of singing some of these legendary tunes with the release of her own CD.

Abbie belts out 13 tunes on My Craziest Dream. Out of these jazz classics, perhaps one of my favorites is the first track, "Happy Feet." From the first sound of the fast-paced drum intro, your toes start tappin' to the beat. As the song suggests, "...when they hear a tune, I can't control my dancing gear to save my soul." The liner notes should contain a warning label not to play this track while driving.

Most of you are probably familiar with "Please Don't Talk About Me." The instruments make this track shine. I've always been amused at how upbeat and positive the melody is while the lyrics focus on the breakup of a friendship with both parties going their own ways. I choose to focus on the instruments as they play back and forth off each other. This is jazz the way it is meant to be played!

There are two bonus tracks on the CD. Abbie's dad, Herb, plays piano on all the tracks as well as providing backing vocals when required. Now, he performs lead vocals on "Staten Island" and "Gunshots and Sirens" -- both H. Gardner originals. You will quickly notice that his gravely voice is far from polished. On the one hand, Abbie has a much better singing voice. But Herb has something Abbie is missing on this CD; Herb's vocals have character. Like his piano playing, his scratchy voice adds some "oomph" to the songs. Most of the time, Abbie is simply singing a given song. The vocals are good, better than average even, but nothing overly special.

The highlight of My Craziest Dream is easily the clarinet and sax player, Dan Levinson. If this CD were a movie, Dan would be stealing each scene he is in! When Dan and Herb go to town, whether their instruments are dueling or complementing the other, My Craziest Dream is at its best. Rounding out the sound is Mike Weatherly on upright bass and Robbie Scott on percussion.

I like My Craziest Dream by Abbie Gardner. If you are a fan of early jazz, I think you will enjoy it, too. This is a collection of great songs. I will admit that I wasn't taken right away by Abbie's singing. Her singing is not bad, just simple. But the instruments begged me to keep listening. Abbie's vocals have now grown on me and I enjoy the package as a whole. If you give it a chance, you will hear what I mean.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 15 May 2004

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