Interestingly, I discovered Michel Legrand at about the same time I ran across Michel Colombier, the sound of both interesting me, who normally eschews the brand of mellifluity the two orbit close to, as it was quite evident they had more than a nodding acquaintance with Romantic-Impressionist-era classicalists interpolated with Gershwinesque jazz-tinged modernizations. Where Colombier leaned towards Chopin, Legrand favored Debussy and Ravel, as do I, and thus I picked up on Legrand's work with a bit more interest. In fact, this wont of his found a rather impressive high point in Le Jazz Grand, pressed on the prestigious Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) imprint, audiophilic and then some. The release boasted a stunning line-up: Gerry Mulligan, Jon Faddis, Phil Woods, Ron Carter, etc., to the tune of 19 players in all. Large band, big sound, interesting comps. In Umbrellas & Sunshine, however, we find the opposite of the population scale—just two musicians—and the configuration could hardly be more propitious to exhibit the deep Parisian baseline in the tributee's soul.
Roger Davidson appears to issue from the Ferrante & Teicher school, a tradition straddling Broadway, grand pop, classical lite, nocturnes, half-lit piano bar nightclubs, and, well, sometimes a hint of Gilbert & Sullivan. His is of course the dominant voice throughout Umbrellas, but David Finck's bass is one of those understated accompaniments the listener soon realizes is far more painterly than at first seems. In a completely different style, I'm reminded of Mike Barry's work with blues master Bernie Pearl: without Barry, Pearl's sound, as impeccable as it is, would miss something in background warmth and character. The same is true here, even more evident when Finck steps out for a solo, as in "The First Time", and the listener realizes what has occurred, understands the transition point and just how fluidly the instrument has been moving behind the piano all the while.
Davidson turns in a letter-perfect recital, but listen closely for a number of surprising interpretive drop-ins. I even thought several were mistakes until I realized how perfectly they contrasted the evolving melody lines for brief interjections of the deeper jazz spirit; quite surprising, in a grin-evoking fashion. Complementing the nature of the entire affair, the packaging is elegant, a quadra-fold digipak with an excellent essay by writer James Gavin. In response to Gavin's inquiries, Davidson perfectly explains the entire mode of the CD, as the songs first made it easy to improv—catch all the work going on in the first cut, for instance—but also many times couldn't help but be played "gently and straightforwardly, because that's all they required". Precisely, and he fielded every nuance therein.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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