Danny Bacher: A Swinger From Way Back, Here Today

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DANNY BACHER: SWING THAT MUSIC! / I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song) (Robert Sherman-Richard Sherman); That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer); Early in the Mornin’ (Jon Hendricks); If It’s Love You Want, Baby, That’s Me (Louis Jordan); Dream a Little Dream of Me (Fabian Andre-Wilbur Schwandt-Gus Kahn); Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby? (Louis Jordan-Billy Austin); A Sunday Kind of Love (Louis Prima-Barbara Belle-Anita Leonard-Stan Rhodes); Just a Gigolo (Leonello Casucci-Julius Brammer) & I Ain’t Got Nobody (Spencer Williams-Roger Graham); St. James Infirmary Blues (Joe Primrose); La Vie en Rose (Louis Louiguy-Edith Piaf) & A Kiss to Build a Dream On (Bert Kalmar-Harry Ruby-Oscar Hammerstein II); Swing That Music (Louis Armstrong-Horace Gerlach) / Danny Bacher, vocal/soprano sax; Warren Vaché, cornet; Pete McGuiness, trombone; Dave Demsey, Houston Person, tenor sax; Jason Teborek, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Ray Drummond, bass; Bill Goodwin, drums; Cyrille Aimée, vocal (on That Old Black Magic, La Vie en Rose) / Whaling City Sound WCS080

This is the kind of jazz record I sometimes (but not always) pass on for review, not because I am averse to swing era jazz—on the contrary, I love it to death—but because I normally only love the originals. Modern-day recreators, though well-intentioned, normally don’t swing as hard or sound as if they’re into the music.

Well, let me introduce you to Danny Bacher.

Look at the cover of this album. Now, be honest, aren’t you thinking, “A Harry Connick, Jr. clone”? I was. But he’s not. On the contrary, Connick sounds like a poor man’s Danny Bacher. Bacher sings like a cross between Bobby Darin at his hippest and Jon Hendricks…and that just takes in his vocal abilities, which include a light, skimming beat, very hip phrasing and an ability to scat with the best of them. On top of this, he also plays a very good soprano sax. And he plays it, folks…not just blowing airy “soft jazz” like Kenny G.

Essentially, this disc is a continuation of the wonderful concerts Bacher gave last year (2015) in which he paid tribute to the “three Louis’…Armstrong, Prima and Jordan.” But he doesn’t just ape their original records, although his tempos on That Old Black Magic and Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody are virtually identical to those of the old Louis Prima versions. He completely reworks them, putting his own joyous and personal stamp on the music. He keeps them jazz classics and doesn’t let them degenerate into third-rate cocktail lounge performances. Added to all his musical abilities is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek sense of humor…listen to the way he sings those suggestive lines in If It’s Love You Want Baby, That’s Me, or the way he jumps into Louis Prima’s Jungle Book showstopper, I Wanna Be Like You. But for me, personally, the best test of this man’s talent is the ballad A Sunday Kind of Love. For those who forget, it was introduced in 1947 by Fran Warren, an over-singing ballad belter with the Claude Thornhill Orchestra. Although I liked the song and loved the Thornhill band, I couldn’t stomach Warren’s delivery of the lyrics (sorry, I’m not susceptible to “torch singers,” I always want to torch them myself). Bacher takes it nice and slow, he gives the words their full value, but thank goodness, he phrases like a jazz singer, which he is. He makes the song work.

Aiding and abetting Bacher in his musical journey is an absolutely splendid and highly professional band, including cornetist Warren Vaché in a rare outing where he is called upon to play in a progressive swing style and not like one of King Oliver’s or Jelly Roll Morton’s brass players. His solos are crackling and inventive: evidently, he responded well to this environment (though he sounds more like Ruby Braff than Louis Armstrong on Swing That Music). The sax players are also excellent, including a guest visit by Houston Person. I was also knocked out by the singing of Cyrille Aimée in duet with Bacher on That Old Black Magic and the medley/duet of La Vie en Rose and A Kiss to Build a Dream On; she is one of those extremely rare female jazz singers who use a light, slightly nasal delivery yet sounds hip, not breathy and submissive. I want to hear more of her…a lot more.

To recap, this isn’t a jazz album that breaks any new ground or pushes the envelope. Make no mistake about that. But it is a jazz album that revisits the past and pays it honor rather than just ripping off old songs and pretending that the delivery sounds fresh. It is fresh because Bacher has such boundless energy and enthusiasm for this music, and obviously loves it. His website bio indicates that he is also a comedian and a playwright. Oh, please, Danny, don’t let those skills push your jazz to the side! Hang on to what you have and develop it, don’t let it atrophy. The world is a better place for skills like yours. It’s also a better place because of this CD.

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book: From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed history of the intersection of jazz and classical music

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2 thoughts on “Danny Bacher: A Swinger From Way Back, Here Today

  1. Pingback: Danny Bacher: A Swinger From Way Back, Here Today – Danny Bacher

  2. Pingback: Danny Bacher: A Swinger From Way Back, Here Today – THE ART MUSIC LOUNGE – Danny Bacher

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