Patrick Barnitt Holds Sway

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SWAY / GORDON-WARREN: The More I See You.1, 2 CAHN-CHAPLIN: Please Be Kind. RODRIGUEZ-MOLINA-RUIZ-GIMBEL: Sway.2 PORTER: I’ve Got You Under My Skin.2 BARNITT-McDONALD: ACL Blues. McEVOY-BROOKHOUSE-DRUMMOND-PIERROT-THORP: Cascade.2, 6 McCANN: The Truth.2, 5 LAMM: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? KRIEGER-DENSMORE-MANZARAK-MORRISON: Touch Me.2 RENIS-TESTA: Quando Quando Quando.2, 4, 5 CANNON: Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey? STYNE-GREEN-COMDEN: Just in Time. ARLEN-MERCER: One for my Baby2, 3 / Patrick  Barnitt, voc; Bijon Watson, Walter Simonson, Jeff Jarvis, Barbara Loronga, tpt; Paul Young, Duane Benjamin, Nick DePinna, Rich Bullock, tb; Rusty Higgins, Mike Nelson, 6Everette Harp, a-sax; Eric Morones, Brain Clancey, t-sax; Ken Fisher, bar-sax; 1Robert Kyle, fl/t-sax; Paul McDonald, pno; 2Stephan Oberhoff, pno/Hammond B3/kbds/gtr/perc/strings; Ricky Z, gtr; Cooper Appelt, bs; Jake Reed, 3Kendall Kay, dm; 4Celso Alberti, perc/dms; 5Laura Pursell, voc / PBMUSIC 002

Patrick Barnitt is a jazz vocalist and actor from out in La-La Land. Reading the brief bio that came with this CD, he has been fortunate enough to play roles in some known films and TV shows, none of which I’ve watched: the horror films Coffin, Coffin 2, Star Trek: First Contact and The Last Day along with guest spots on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But it is as a jazz singer that he apparently feels the most comfortable and is the most proud of. Under the tutelage of famed pianist-singer-teacher Smitty Smith, he developed his talent and was able to move into the L.A. jazz scene, regularly performing at the Dresden in Hollywood.

My first impression of Barnitt’s voice when I started this CD was that he sounded like a more swinging version of Jack Jones, whose voice I liked very much, thus I was surprised to see his voice described as a tenor. It’s more of a light high baritone with a touch of Harry Connick, Jr. in it. This set is pretty much a collection of swing standards with a few more up-to-date surprises. The Paul McDonald Big Band which accompanies him is a very tight, professional outfit whose arrangements are pretty generic but also very swinging. My lone disappointments on the disc were his slow ballad renditions of I’ve Got You Under My Skin and Quando, Quando, Quando. I much prefer the uptempo versions, including those of the first tune by Frank Sinatra and Al Bowlly.

If you’re looking for a jazz singer who improvises in the manner of Al Jarreau or Mark Murphy, however, you won’t find it here. Barnitt swings but doesn’t improvise. For me, the most impressive tracks were the self-composed ACL Blues and his version of the old chestnut Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?, both taken at a real uptempo clip and showing how well Barnitt can swing. The guitar solo on the former by Ricky Z is quite good, bluesy but not too much like hardcore rock guitar, which I appreciated. The rock-influenced Cascade was not at all to my taste, but c’est la vie. Someone will like it.

Interestingly, Barnitt’s voice is recorded clearly in a forward space while the orchestra (and backup singers) always seems to be swimming in an echo chamber, but again, some folks will probably like this. The slow bluesy number The Truth is a duet with Laura Pursell, who sings out a lot more than most female “jazz” singers I am asked to review. The fine singing and sparse arrangement work well together, and there are excellent solos here by one of the tenor saxists and trumpeters. I was really happy to hear Barnitt sing Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?, one of my favorite songs by the jazz-rock band Chicago, and McDonald’s arrangement sticks fairly close to the original (including the trumpet solo), which is a good thing since that version was nearly perfect. He also sings a cover version of The Doors’ Touch Me. The set closes with the old Frank Sinatra standard, One for My Baby.

Overall, a fine album with good singing and a solid big band backing. Some of these tracks will stay in your mind after the album is finished playing.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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