Danny Bacher at Birdland- A Throwback to Cool

The Danny Bacher Quintet communicates in musical shorthand. This purposefully upbeat (don’t we all need it?) evening of swing/bop/jazz and a token ballad fizzes along as six top notch musicians appreciate one another on stage. (Bacher’s next CD Still Happy comes out in the Fall.)

Intention is set with Joe Burke/Edgar Leslie’s “Getting Some Fun Out of Life”, an up-tempo number with scat on speed. How Bacher expels enunciated sounds that fast is beyond me. Harry Allen’s sax churns. Louis Jordan’s classic “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” is a tribute to the three Louis: Jordan, Armstrong, and Prima (Bacher sounds a bit like Prima). Dean Johnson’s resonant bass notes emerge as if from a cave. A woman is a creecha (creature) Bacher sings. He, Allen and Charlie Caranicas convene like rowdy schoolboys, each with his own musical character.

Two suave sambas appealingly take things down a bit. “Laughing At Life” (Charles & Nick Kenny/Bob Todd) enters with infectious sway. Caranicas’ colorful horn soars above the tune; Allen’s weaves through it with surety. Bacher and Caranicas play a game of musical chicken. Addience heads bob. “This Happy Madness” (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Gene Lees) features Farnham’s sensual piano and Bacher’s cottony vocal. The performer nods his way through long notes as if physically coaxing them out. Where are my so-rowz? he sings. ‘Love the whistling. Arrangements by Farnham.

Heading south, the band offers a loose n’ sassy “Hard Hearted Hannah” (Milton Ager/Jack Yellen/ Bob Bigalow/Charles Bates) Bacher’s sax comments. Johnson’s bass work is fleet fingered and twangy. We hear shades of burlesque and N’Orleans.

The band leader dons shades for the wonderfully wry “MaNah MaNah” (Piero Umiliani), a song he describes as “jazz meets the Muppets.” Entirely scat and rhythmic melody, it finds Bacher vocally approaching each musician in hopes of dueting and being successively rejected. He and the band are expressive. The number is charming. ‘Very cool arrangement by Chris Byars.

“Lucky To Be Me” (Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/Adolph Green) is alas tonight’s only ballad. Bacher’s eezee delivery is backed by soulful bass, circling brushes, and reflective  piano. Palms open, fingers splay- the singer lets in instead of giving out. Spoken phrases add intimacy. A tandem “Just a Gigolo” (Leo Casucci/Irving Caesar) and “I Ain’t Got Nobody” (Spencer Williams/Roger A. Graham) is winningly insouciant.

Caveat: A new rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood” (Richard Whiting/Johnny Mercer) has some nifty, updated lyrics by Bacher (sanctioned by Debbie Whiting in the audience), but interpreted as a drum-centric Brazilian Carnival number, has nothing to do with the lyrics. Alvester Garnett’s musicianship is, however, superb.

Note to venue: It was unfortunate that sound design too often buried both Bacher’s appealing vocals and Farham’s subtle piano in blasting horn.

Originally posted on http://theaterpizzazz.com/danny-bacher-at-birdland-a-throwback-to-cool/ from June 4, 2018

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