Album Review: Music & Mirth by Richie Kaye

Richie Kaye
Music & Mirth
Freshen Up Records

A maestro of swing, singer-guitarist Richie Kaye honors a time in mainstream music when people raved about jazz and its musicians dominated the air waves. For his latest recording, Music & Mirth, he is accompanied by saxophonist/clarinet player Tony LaVorgna and pianist/percussionist Sam Kuslan to bring audiences twenty-two tracks loaded with the good vibrations of traditional jazz idioms and plenty of mirth as the title promises. The selection of covers varies in tempo and melodic formations, but all of them fit right in with the big production numbers put on by MGM during the 1950’s. They arouse a jamboree atmosphere as Kaye and crew transition the songs into a modern jazz fare.

Kaye’s vocals have a showtunes feel reminiscent of Debbie Reynolds’ partner Donald O’Conner as LaVorgna’s horns vamp up the melodies with boughs of frills and Kuslan’s keys twinkle and jiggle vivaciously keeping the mood in the tracks upbeat. The gentle peddling of the whistles floating along the melodic passages of “Paper Moon” is reminiscent of Roy Rogers’s westerns. The whistles are streaked in bubbly clarinet divots which switch to a nocturnal finery in “Talk of the Town.” The brisk skipping stride of the piano keys in “Tiny Capers” has a cheerful vibe with a likeness to the film score for MGM’s “Cover Girl,” and the ragtime jostles of “Sweet Tooth” are keeled by a catchy rhythmic shuffling.

Kaye’s vocal inflections have a vaudeville-slant in “Love Is Just Around the Corner” reflective of the animated phrasing in the title track for the Broadway play “Anything Goes.” The Spanish tint in the guitar chords for “Desafinado” has a Latin-swing shimmy, while the rustling in the guitar strums along “Runnin’ Wild” is blanketed in an Americana glaze. The tender musings of the clarinet in “Lazy River” pick up speed midway through and turn a lullaby into a riverboat jamboree as the swirling twitters of the clarinet alternate between moving vertically and horizontally. The quick strides of “I Remember You” pump up the tempo changing to soft pulsating strums along “I’ll Take Romance.” The graceful swags of the clarinet in “Have You Met Miss Jones” have a refined penmanship, which moves to a Hawaiian breeze in “Back in Nagasaki” as the lyrics fantasize about a private oasis, “Back in Nagasaki where the men chew tobaccie / The women wickie wacky.” The album closes with the swiveling dance beats of the Flores Trio’s “Tequila” widely remembered as the number that TV personality Pee Wee Herman danced to in his 1985 movie “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure.”

Kaye’s charm is prevalent throughout the recording along with LaVorgna’s frilly trimmings and finery, and Kuslan’s expedient flights. The threesome honor vintage jazz and prove that swing has a place in contemporary music circles.

Richie Kaye – lead vocals and guitar, Tony LaVorgna – saxophone, clarinet, and piano, Sam Kuslan – piano and percussion

(Say It’s Only A) Paper Moon, Talk of the Town, Sweet Tooth, Tiny Capers, Love Is Just Around The Corner, Desafinado, Lean Baby, Somewhere, Runnin’ Wild, Out of Breath, They All Laughed, Lazy River, Margie/Avalon, There’s a Boat That’s Leaving for New York, I Remember You, Just Friends, My Foolish Heart, Have You Met Miss Jones, I’ll Take Romance, Back in Nagasaki, Aren’t You Glad You’re You, Tequila

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