Marilyn Lester’s Review of Still Happy
If the DNA of Sidney Bechet and Louis Prima could be combined, the result would be Danny Bacher. He considers himself an entertainer in the old school mode of Prima, but with a very modern sensibility. He’s been an actor, writer and comedian but, as Still Happy attests, is mainly an accomplished soprano saxophonist and jazz singer. Bacher has an upbeat personality and pours his optimism into a thematic dozen tracks that add up to life is good despite hard knocks. This philosophy is contained in his own blues-tinged composition “In Spite of This I’m Still Happy”.
Opener “Getting Some Fun Out of Life”, a zesty uptempo swinger, shows superb vocal and instrumental phrasing, plus an ability to scat with the very best. Bacher proves it again with a bebop-style “Joy Spring” in which he produces vocalese on par with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Uncannily, Bacher is almost a voice double for Prima, but with far more smoothness, elegance and warmth. Those qualities are showcased in the ballad “Lucky to Be Me”. The most fun number is an update of “Hooray for Hollywood”; Bacher’s revised lyrics are a hoot, the tempo spirited, playing facile and creative touches—such as a samba band riff complete with whistle—are 100% joy-producing.
Pianist Allen Farnham’s arrangements perfectly reflect Bacher’s style while his solos demonstrate the precise technique the classically trained often bring to the table. Maintaining a tight rhythmical anchor are bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Alvester Garnett and percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos (who shines on a swinging “Get Happy”). Trumpeter Charlie Caranicas and tenor saxophonist Harry Allen add horn texture to the set, the latter a nice complement to Bacher’s soprano.
Bacher’s other original number, “Joie de vivre”, serves as an instrumental showcase in its hip nod to Swing Era dynamics and ably demonstrates how Caranicas is a master of the classic jazz ethic. “Cloudy/ Nuages” is a mellow closer. Bacher’s capacity to entertain, tell a story and spread love makes for a collection of tunes that calls for repeated listening.
For more information, visit whalingcitysound.com. This project is at 54 Below Dec. 21st. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS