Jazz CD Reviews
Michael Franks, vocals – Rendezvous in Rio – Koch Records
Published on May 23, 2006
Must admit I’d almost forgotten about Michael Franks. He’s been recording and performing for the past 33 years and this is his 16th album. His is one of those highly individual, instantly recognizable voices that may not be the most gorgeous you have ever heard but has an amazing way of delivering the lyrics with wit, feeling and even a special sort of sensuality that seems wonderfully relaxed and believable. In my book he’s in the same camp as such other highly individual singers as Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Blossom Dearie and Mose Allison.
Franks’ major influence over the years has been Brazilian bossa nova and in particular the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Michael even dedicated three of his songs in the past to Jobim. All ten tunes on this new album are originals by Franks, and most of them demonstrate this engagingly melodic, easily swinging influence. Actually the title tune is only partially an original – it makes use of a little “Samba do Soho” duet for guitar and flute by Paolo Jobim and Ronaldo Bastos. “The Critics Are Never Kind” is one of the 28 songs in Franks’ unproduced musical “Noa Noa,” about the life of Gauguin. This tune is a musical conversation between painters Gauguin, Van Gogh and Degas.
The sense of “The Cool School” and “Hearing Take Five” is his love as a young man in San Diego in the 60s for West Coast Jazz. Franks explains that while his parents had a hi-fi console that looked like a liquor cabinet, the father of one of his friends had a quality audiophile tubed system and introduced him to the recordings of Mose Allison and Dave Brubeck. Speaking of friends, Franks gathered some great musician friends to back him for this album, including Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), Jeff Lorber, Russell Ferrante and Chuck Loeb. All of the very hip and witty lyrics are printed in the note booklet. Being reminded of Franks by this new offering, I’m stimulated to go back in my library and dig out his unique shadings of such favs as Popsicle Toes, and The Lady Wants To Know.
– John Henry