DRINK YOU IN / LICA-TAETZ: Drink You In.3,5,8 JOHNSON-TAETZ: Meet Me in Montreal.1,8 TAETZ: Lately.6 JURECKA-TAETZ: Other Side of the World.3,7,8 SONDHEIM: The Little Things You Do Together.4,5 BRAZDA-FREEDMAN-TAETZ: Forgotten How to Say Goodbye.2,6,7 COHEN-ROBINSON: Everybody Knows.4,5,8 BART: Oom-Pah-Pah.8 LAUREN-TAETZ: We Never Kissed Goodbye.5,6 DeLUGG-STEIN: Orange Colored Sky. TAETZ: So This is Love3,6,9 / Steven Taetz, 1Sonia Johnson, 2Tia Brazda, voc; 3Kevin Turcotte, 4John Macleod, 4Steve McDade, tpt; 4Rob Somerville, tb; 5Drew Jurecka, a-sax/cl; 4Pat La Barbera, t-sax; 4Bob DeAngelis, bar-sax; Ewen Farncombe, 6Adrean Farrugia, pno/cel; 7Carissa Neufeld, vib; 8Nathan Hiltz, gtr; Søren Nissen, bs; Ernesto Cervini, 9Andrew Miller, dm; strings & 1bandoneon / Flatcar Records (no number)
I generally run from jazz-lounge singers like the plague—and trust me, I get a ton of their CDs on spec to review, and turn 98% of them down—but Canadian Steven Taetz sings out most of the time, his backup band really swings, and let me tell you, the title track is an instant classic, funny as well as hip. If this doesn’t suck you in, you have no sense of humor and no appreciation for really hip lounge jazz.
In addition to his songwriting skills, Taetz has a very unusual voice, particularly in the jazz world: a very high, light tenor with an extensive high range and no touch of the baritone about it. Think of a very hip-sounding Dennis Day, or Wayne Newton in his younger days, and you’ll have some idea of his sound. It could almost be confused, in the first track, for a mezzo-soprano, but when you hear him sing along female singer Sonia Johnson in Meet Me in Montreal you can tell the difference. (With training, Taetz could easily sing those high tenorino roles in Italian operas.)
I was also happy to hear that Taetz doesn’t lay too heavily on the ballads, the bane of my existence as a jazz reviewer, and when he does sing one, i.e. Lately, his delivery sounds eerily like the late Chet Baker, in my mind the greatest of all white jazz balladeers. And it’s not just that Taetz has a great natural sense of jazz time in his singing; it’s his phrasing, too. Listen to the phrase, “Tell me, lover, where are you?” in the latter song, for instance. His voice rides the beat with unerring jazz feeling. Taetz is truly hip. I could listen to him sing all night long.
True, his isn’t a groundbreaking style—it’s the tried-and-true style harking back to Sinatra or Mel Tormé—but he’s so good at it, it doesn’t have to be, and his backup band is consistently swinging and hip, including a delicious Charlie Byrd-like guitar solo on Other Side of the World all those Chet Baker-like trumpet solos here and there. And the tight rhythm section. The little pauses he inserts between notes on The Little Things You Do Together are just perfect, and as good an example as any of why I love his delivery. His duet partners, Sonia Johnson and Tia Brazda, are also quite good, Johnson having the better voice but Brazda the hipper delivery.
Taetz gives us a different spin on Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, upping the tempo and giving it a jazz swing, and Lionel Bart’s Oom-Pah-Pah is given the Django Reinhart-Stéphane Grappelli Hot Club treatment with Nathan Hiltz on guitar and a sadly unidentified hot violinist. [Update: Ernesto Cervini, the media publicist for this album as well as one of the drummers, has informed me that the violin solo is by Drew Jurecks, who produced the album and plays ALL of the strings on it.] Honestly, Taetz can outswing Harry Connick, Jr. any day of the week. Taetz also channels Nat “King” Cole in his cover version of Orange-Colored Sky but does it his own way, singing out a bit more and giving the song a triplet feel in the rhythm section.
Drink You In is scheduled for release on September 28. Look for it, buy it, enjoy it. This disc is a sheer delight from start to finish.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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