Danny Bacher Album Still Happy

Danny Bacher is Back!

STILL HAPPY / BURKE-LESLIE: Getting Some Fun out of Life. BRIAND-SABAN: Laughing at Life. BACHER: In Spite of This, I’m Still Happy. Joie de Vivre. BERLIN: Shakin’ the Blues Away. WHITING-MERCER: Hooray for Hollywood. BERNSTEIN-COMDEN-GREEN: Lucky to Be Me. JOBIM-DeMORAES: This Happy Madness. BROWN-HENDRICKS: Joy Spring. MOROSS/LaTOUCHE: Lazy Afternoon. ARLEN-KOEHLER: Get Happy. Medley; BEIDERBECKE: Cloudy/REINHARDT: Nuages / Danny Bacher, sop-sax/voc; Charles Carnicas, tpt/Fl-hn; Harry Allen, t-sax; Allen Farnham, pno; Dean Johnson, bs; Alvester Garnett, dm; Rolando Morales-Matos, perc / Whaling City Sound WCS110

When I reviewed Danny Bacher’s previous CD, Swing That Music, in May 2016, I begged him to never change his repertoire or lose his enthusiasm for jazz. We desperately need more people like him in the jazz world to provide a light, fun alternative to all the heavy and serious material out there.

He surely has. In case you haven’t heard him, Bacher is a jazzier, more swinging version of Harry Connick, Jr. He has a nice, light tenor voice, can scat like mad, and in addition plays an absolutely wonderful soprano sax. I’ve flirted with the thought that he and Chloe Feoranzo should do an album together. What do you think, Danny, hmmm? And remember, she can sing in addition to playing wonderful clarinet and tenor sax.

On this album, Bacher’s back-up band is even hotter and more inventive than his previous one, and that’s saying quite a lot. The band and Bacher kick into high gear right off the bat with Getting Some Fun out of Life, and even when he brings the tempo down in Briand’s Laughing at Life, he keeps right on swinging. I absolutely loved Allen Farnham’s arrangements on this disc, with co-arranging assistance from Bacher; they have a nice form while keeping the solo spots open. Bach’s soprano is first heard on this second track, and he sounds nothing like Sidney Bechet or Coltrane, but rather more like Johnny Hodges from the years when he played soprano (which, unfortunately for jazz, he stopped around the mid-1940s because it was too hard for him to keep the “fish horn,” as it was referred to in those days, in tune while playing on the road with the Ellington band).

Bacher adds so many little touches to his vocals (little grace notes and turns, among others) that you just have to hear them to appreciate his jazz chops. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard him singing Shakin’ the Blues Away, one of my all-time favorite Irving Berlin songs (strangely, misattributed in the album inlay to someone named “Chuck,” but sorry, it’s an Irving Berlin song, recorded in 1927 by both Paul Whiteman and vocalist-drummer Tom Stacks with the Cliquot Club Eskimos). Bacher slows it down from its originally fast tempo to a medium clip, but it still swings, with a wonderful plunger solo by Charles Canricas, a nice tenor solo by Harry Allen and Dean Johnson on bass.

And I absolutely loved the way Bacher updated the lyrics to Hooray for Hollywood to reflect our more modern “sin city” while still making us laugh. He also does a very “cozy” version of Lucky to Be Me, and his bop original Joie de Vivre features scat vocals-with-trumpet that are simply infectious, and I loved the way trumpeter Carnicas picked up on the last lick in Allen’s solo to launch his own. Interestingly, Bacher’s scat vocal on this one sounded amazingly like Ella Fitzgerald, while in Lazy Afternoon he seems to be channeling Sheila Jordan!

There are more ballads on this album than there were on his earlier album but, as I say, he and the band make them swing, which is the important item to consider. Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring is shifted a bit in rhythm from a sort of calypso-bop piece to a swing tune, but is wonderful nonetheless. Get Happy is given a calypso-beat treatment. Bix Beiderbecke’s spuriously-attributed tune Cloudy leads into a beautiful, wistful rendition of Django Reinhardt’s famous Nuages to wrap things up. What more can I say? It’s a Danny Bacher album, and it’s wonderful!

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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DANNY BACHER

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