A classic is a classic for a good reason. Leave them alone and don’t try to Mariah Carey them into submission. Don’t use them for your Verizon commercials. Don’t adulterate them into a rap R&B rip-off. And please don’t American Idolize them.
Bellingham, WA’s Trish Hatley treats her jazz standards right in “I Remember.” She’s gathered some of the best Pacific Northwest musicians she can find — Darin Clendenin on piano, Ken French-drums, Larry Holloway-bass, Jack Klitzman-baritone sax, Dan Marcus-trombone, Paul Mazzio-flugelhorn, John Anderson-tenor sax, Jeff Busch-percussion, Dave Peterson-guitar — to put out a CD that’s very faithful to the original, and oft-recreated jazz tunes.
Hatley’s voice is perfection, deep, rich, and as legit an instrument as those she generously lets shine in the spotlight for as long as they want. All too often, the novice-headed singer comes aboard thinking she can take over and vocalize over the musicians’ individual and collaborative jams.
But not Hatley. She knows when to sing and when to step back and let the piano do the singing, or the duo of percussion and bass. If anything, I’d have liked to hear more of her own vocal interpretation instead of strictly following the light and bouncy notes exactly as written by some of the greats, like the 1924 George and Ira Gershwin classic, “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” best and first known from the Fred Astaire Broadway musical, “Lady Be Good.”
“Fascinatin’ Rhythm” tends to be one of those songs that grates on my nerves in general, because it’s been overplayed by all the self-professed but amateur jazz singers from the audience trying to sit in and live out their non-existent glory days. (“Fever” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” also comes tragically to mind.) However, in the hands of Hatley and her arranger on this piece — pianist Darin Clendenin (he arranged almost all of the music) — “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” is absolutely fascinating, fresh and new, without any hasty, misguided and disrespectful revisions in the aim of relevance to today’s pop and pap, or, god forbid, Muzak fusion.
The introduction is a fast-paced, funky and cool jam of heavy percussion, followed by piano, until finally the familiar strains of the melody come on when Hatley starts with the title in her lyrics. This jamming, keyed-up intro plays throughout the melodic strains, with fancy but not overdone flourishes.
Speaking of flourishes, just to show you that Hatley’s CD remains true to the classics, in Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings,” there’s that Count Basie piano flourish at the end. No comment, ha ha. Hey, I may know my way between a Basie and a Basia, but I’m still a whippersnapper here.
Personally, I tend to favor songs that register in minor-and-dark-sounding keys (“Don’t Explain,” “Cry Me A River,” “Body And Soul” are outstanding in this regard). They sound more dramatic, serious, poignant, and even romantic, which appeals to my tragedy-junkie soul.
So, the 1950s nostalgia of Albert Hague and Arnold B. Horwitt’s “Young & Foolish,” from the musical “Plain and Fancy,” really hits me hard. I’m reminded of my grandparents, great-aunt, in-laws, father — who’ve all long since passed on and all really loved songs like this, would play them often and sing along with a starry, lost look in their eyes.
The lyrics of “Young & Foolish” retraced their own historical pasts, through the world wars, the Depression, love and loss and timeless innocence through a rosy glow that makes me cry a little. “Now we wonder | What were we dreamin’ of | Smiling in the sunlight | Laughing in the rain | I wish that we were young and foolish again…” This is when the band should remain true, and does so eloquently on the “I Remember” CD. Such a short song, but filled with such aged wisdom and youthful carelessness. The choice to feature the piano in all its simple, yet lush glory is the right one.
If you want to visit a jazz club the rest of the texting, Twittering world machine has forgotten, with an intimate atmosphere and players who play with a restrained but commanding touch, while they respect the music and the lyrics, and the cadences that say so much with so little, come into Trish Hatley’s “I Remember.” You won’t be disappointed.
And go hug your grandmother for me.