Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The gentle world of "Gary Williams at the Movies"

Gary Williams has a fine reputation as a distinctive interpreter of the Great American Songbook in a relaxed jazz idiom. His latest album “Gary Williams at the Movies” has fifteen songs all of which, as the name suggests, are from movie soundtracks. Not all are standards – a number were new to me – but all in his hands appeal. This is in a way a crossover album – we are on the cusp of jazz and popular music throughout. Some of the fine arrangements are heavily jazz inspired others owe more to Nelson Riddle or Billy May (though there are no lush strings!).

It is an eclectic collection with songs from “The Aristocats”, “The Jungle Book” and “Dumbo” sitting comfortably with the great “Isn’t this a Lovey Day” from “Top Hat”. The Bee Gees “How Deep is your Love” (from “Saturday Night Fever” of course”) is a long way from the original – and all the better for it! There are one or two other songs closely linked to one artist – Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and the Carpenters “Close to You” for example. The arrangements and Williams distinctive vocal style give these classics new life.  This style I would describe as “less is more”. His voice is never strained - always laid back. This is music to play late at night when you’re alone on the sofa with your love and the lights are low. In our raucous “in your face” age it is a delight to hear more gentle music - great songs elegantly sung with great sincerity but no sentimentality. To sing “Home is where the heart is” and make it sound rather more than the soppy ballad it usually is is quite an achievement!

The Band is exceptional with Graeme Blevins slinky Sax perhaps the highlight! The balance is good throughout – the band never obscures the singer but it is not in the background – some clever sound engineering here.


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