Much as I love the recent-years vocal attentions to the Great American Songbook, I also lament the scant regard paid to serious jazz's possibilities for voice to join in and gambol amid instrumentations either in scat, add-on lyrics, or whatever might come to mind. Well, with Promises to Burn by the Janice Borla Group, we get the best of both worlds, as Borla separates a garden of unorthodox selections highly sympathetic to coolly curious vocables, scat work, lyrics, and noises. Thank Christ she chose Jack Mouse to man the drums, too, 'cause he actually is as much a determinant of atmosphere and inflection as she, and…okay, okay, Jack IS Janice's husband, so it's a natural empathy, but, hey, she coulda gone crazy and picked someone else, right?
Then there's—am I hallucinating or is this guy everywhere all at once?—Scott Robinson on tenor sax and flute, here mannered and well-behaved instead of blowing the walls out with the killer lunatic abstract fare he's more than capable of. He's joined by Art Davis on trumpet and flugelhorn, very suggestive of another Art: Farmer, a cat much missed. I was especially satisfied, though, with John McLean's guitar work, a cross between Martino, Green, Benson, and Ritenour but residing most often in the elder days gentz. Borla's voice is clear, sweet, melodious, and blends scat with Braziliana influences. Cuts like Midnight Voyage have distinct sympathies to South of the Border sonorities while Some Other Time is profoundly balladic, with some attention-getting bass soloing from Bob Bowman.
There's some Ella to Borla too, Tristano's Lennie's Pennies affording a nice intro arena for that, opened up again later in other songs. On this cut, though, Davis' trumpet is set too far back in the mix, though McLean isn't and takes up right where Janice leaves off, this time Benson-plus, prime early period. At the tail end, Robinson duets with Borla in Klemmer-esque slightly augmented and self-tracked sax fashion. The whole CD is never abrupt, always beat-hipster cool, literati inventive, and friendly while dancing on the outskirts of traditional norms. I can't find any Google materials for this ensemble but strongly suspect it's their debut disc and one that Promises not to be their last.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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