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Index of SEMJA reviews


Recent Recordings By Area Musicians


Steady Gig. Susan Chastain with the Paul Keller Ensemble, PKO 033

Firefly Club owner Susan Chastain steps out from behind the cash register to open the Great American Songbook — eleven songs by the Gershwins, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and others. This album shows what a first-rate singer can do with first-class material and the arrangements of Paul Keller, our local musical genius.

On my favorite track, "Willow Weep For Me," several things happen. Keller leads off on bass and maintains an audible pulse throughout, Chastain reaches the heights on her vocal, Paul Finkbeiner shows he has mastered the wa-wa trumpet medium, and Ellen Rowe offers one of her delicate but swinging solos. It's one of eleven fine tracks with hip vocals and fine solos by trombonist Chris Smith, altoist Keith Kaminski, drummer Sean Dobbins along with the others. Susan is in fine voice and should be very happy with the sensitive photos of her on the liner notes.

A fine CD, not just for jazz fans, but for anyone interested in the American popular song.

A Tribute To Benny Goodman. The Paul Keller Orchestra with Clarinetist Jim Wyse, PKO 036

This is the Keller big band that plays at the Firefly every Monday night, augmented by Detroit clarinetist Jim Wyse, guitarist Rod McDonald and vibraphonist Cary Kocher.

The band chose a wide variety of Goodman numbers representing the different arrangers who worked for BG. Although they never reach the power and drive of the original records, the band gives it their best shot, and Wyse is careful just to come close to the original clarinet solos rather than slavishly imitating them.

To me, the high spots of the disc are provided by the world-class rhythm section. Check out the piano and bass solos of Jim Dapogny and Paul Keller (respectively) on "Moonglow," and the work of Pete Siers on the drum feature of the twentieth century, "Sing, Sing, Sing." Kocher's vibes, playing along with the reeds, make several of the numbers sound richer than the original recordings, and Susan Chastain's vocals, particularly on "And The Angels Sing," are super.

This is not just a nostalgia album but fine swing music in its own right.

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