CDs like this present problems for the critic, as it contains a balanced schedule of flaws and virtues. On the one hand, pianist Billy Alfred plays with a pair of sparkling hands and band leader Doug Richards is tremendously lyrical, neither gent trying to set the world on fire with chops, but, man, do they get a lot across with extremely vivacious lines. Alfred's kinda like a Mick Ralphs, a rocker guitarist whose choice of chords was primo, shown spectacularly in the first Bad Company LP, far overshadowing any lead work displayed. The same goes for Alfred, not just in chordal perspicacities but timing as well, every moment exactly on point and pumping the mood up. He brings new life to the workhorse Summertime wherein Richards also has a perfectly miked presence in constantly pulsating lines.
But Richards isn't always as well captured as he should be, especially in the lead cut, Honeysuckle Rose, and that's been a problem in many recent jazz discs, I'm afraid. Especially in jazz, the bass is important as hell and needs careful attention to be neither over-presented nor ignored in its dynamics, even more lucidly shown in On Green Dolphin Street. Then drummer Mike Cervone almost always sounds either too distanced or forced suddenly up front on solos. Frustrating on the one hand, jarring on the other. More, the entire recording is what you'd call 'mid-fi', as though taken in a nightclub and not well engineered, acoustics often echoey or, well, not masked but thin.
Chanteuse Donna Singer (yep, that really is her surname) has a sweet melodious voice but also has a tendency to shape her nuances a la Helen Reddy (and don't get me started on Helen, y'all!). Singer's well known for her many concert appearances in small and large venues but the ambiance in delivery is distinctly Las Vegas, which carries a certain defined blandness…hence that Helen Reddy thing again. On some cuts, she stands out, on others, not so much. In short, the stars here are Alfred and Richards, and the instrumental cuts of Jazz in the Living Room demonstrate their strengths best; hence, I'd hope to see a singerless release next time out, everyone knuckling down to a good jazz sweat. With a really deserved engineering job, the result would be exhilarating.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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