Tributes to the Louies - Armstrong, Prima and Jordan - are nothing new. For years, artists with a penchant for finger-popping have doffed a cap to one or more of them, and with good reason: They're among the most significant music makers of the 20th century. Vocalist and soprano saxophonist Danny Bacher is the latest to tie together the Louis legacies on his invigorating new CD Swing That Music! (Whaling City Sound).
Bacher receives sterling support from a topnotch little big band featuring all-stars such as guitarist Howard Alden, cornetist Warren Vache, trombonist Pete McGuinness and bassist Ray Drummond. Song selections play like a dream jukebox, featuring a slate of tunes that connect jazz and blues to jump-swing and rock 'n' roll. Bacher's tenor vocals provide a sturdy vehicle for the music, and he pulls plenty of fire from his sax, undoubtedly inspired by the musicians he honors - ace solosits all - as well as those on the session. Bacher shares the mic with the charming Cyrille Aimée for a medly that pairs "La Vie en Rose" with "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." both romantic staples of the Armstrong repertoire. Aimée sings the former in her native French (a la Edith Piaf) as a prelude to Bacher's supple croon on the latter. Pianist Jason Teborek, bassist Drummond and drummer Bill Goodwin are spot-on, and Vache honors Pops' horn without imitating him.
"The secret of serious fun is not to take it too seriously, especially if it involves playing jazz. That attitude is something that the easygoing singer and saxophonist Danny Bacher, who appeared with a small swing band at the Metropolitan Room on Tuesday evening, knows in his bones.
It is about making hot music but staying cool, about cutting up while maintaining effortless self-control, about having a blast with friends. And at his performance of "Swing That Music," a homage to the era of jumpin' jive with a dollop of Dixieland, Mr. Bacher conflated the music of three Louises — Armstrong, Jordan and Prima — in a concert revealing him to be a prodigiously talented musical preservationist.
Mr. Bacher's voice is smoother than Prima's rasp, but in his bebop solos he revealed enough of his inner wild man to suggest a maniac behind the cool. "I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)," from "The Jungle Book," in particular, made me grin. It was a reminder that behind its academic trappings, a prime element of jazz has always been a game of monkey see, monkey do."
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
La Vie En Rose/Kiss To Build a Dream On
(Featuring Cyrille Aimée and Warren Vaché)
I Wanna Be Like You
Dream a little dream
Early in the Mornin
I Want You To Be My Baby (featuring Houston Person)