The David Leonhardt Group Plays Cole Porter – Big Bang Records BBR 9584, 57:05 ***:
(David Leonhardt – piano; Larry McKenna – saxophone; Matthew Parrish – bass; Paul Wells – drums; Nancy Reed – vocals)
William McBrien in his biography of Cole Porter quotes Walter Clemons on Cole Porter: ”The complexity of Porter’s best work sets him somewhat apart from the other great songwriters of the first half of the century…a Porter song is a luxury item, expensively made and extravagantly rhymed.” It is not surprising then, that almost every jazz and pop artist has recorded at least one Porter tune and others, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, devoted entire albums to all of Porter’s songs. What could this group possibly add to the panoply of recorded Porter tunes which would be new, fresh, and interesting? The answer is, not so much.
The two songs which offer the most interest are those which bracket the song list, namely “Love for Sale” and “Get Out Of Town”, both of which are done by the trio of Leonhardt, Parrish and Wells. In the case of the former, the tune features some interesting time signatures, and then there is the straight-ahead version of the latter song. Leonhardt’s playing in both cases is exemplary as he covers the keyboard with devilish fashion and flair.
Of the remaining ten tracks, five are vocals by Nancy Reed. The liner notes indicate that she is “an undiscovered gem” with an “underground following”. A somewhat more jaundiced interpretation of her vocal qualities is that she has a rather ordinary voice, with limited range. However she does give a pleasant reading to “Night And Day” as well as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.
Joining the trio for five instrumental selections is saxophonist Larry McKenna who hails from Philadelphia. Although his playing is agreeable, it is not a difference maker to the overall strength of the project, even if the Latin flavoured “I Concentrate On You” is nicely delivered. While the arrangements and production values provided by David Leonhardt are first rate, this is one Cole Porter Songbook too many.
TrackList: Love For Sale; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Just One Of Those Things; Night And Day; In The Still Of The Night; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; I’ve Got You Under My Skin; I Concentrate On You; It’s All Right With Me; I Love You; All Of You; Get Out Of Town.
A bona fide jazz legend is celebrated with an all-star documentary soundtrack vinyl soundtrack.