Hipster cool from jazz crooner Allan Harris and comedian Bill Murray's collaboration with cellist Jan Vogler

JAZZ

THE GENIUS OF EDDIE JEFFERSON

Allan Harris

Resilience Music Alliance

4 stars

The silky, slinky baritone of American singer Allan Harris is not what one would think of to tackle Eddie Jefferson's eclectic oeuvre.

Jefferson, who made a name as one of the leading exponents of vocalists alongside Jon Hendricks, possessed one of those crackly, raspy voices that worked more because of the performative genius of its owner than because of innate range or timbre. His performances were littered with gravelly growls and falsetto yodels, but the former hoofer had an impeccable sense of time and charismatic delivery.

Confronted with this idiosyncratic muse, Harris rises impressively to the occasion. While his timbre is too creamy for the grimy grit of the track Filthy McNasty, his lilting delivery is a surprisingly good match for Jefferson's first big hit, So What, its lyrics set to a melody line from trumpeter Miles Davis' solo in Kind Of Blue. The arrangement here is the same as the original, but Harris' take is more relaxed than Jefferson's. But the hip bop quotient is undeniably there, shored up by sparkling piano work from Eric Reed.

The ensemble, which also includes drummer Willie Jones, bassist George DeLancey, tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore and alto saxophonist Richie Cole, seems to be having a ball on faster bop tracks such as Dexter Digs In and Billy's Bounce.

Chilled classic bop, delivered with style and sass, makes this a very enjoyable spin indeed.

Ong Sor Fern


CROSSOVER CLASSICS

NEW WORLDS

Bill Murray, Jan Vogler and friends

Decca Gold 28948157914

4.5 stars

American actor Bill Murray and German cellist Jan Vogler met by chance on a flight and quickly became friends. This album is an unusual collaboration between a veteran thespian and virtuoso cellist, with more than an hour of selections from American literature and well-chosen music.

Murray is clearly the star, totally at home and fully idiomatic in readings from Walt Whitman (Song Of The Open Road), James Fenimore Cooper (The Deerslayer), Mark Twain (Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn) and James Thurber (If Grant Had Been Drinking At Appomattox). The last, a hilarious bit of "alternative history", is worth several laughs - accompanied by the Blues, the second movement from Ravel's Violin Sonata, where the violin simulates a banjo.

Whoever thought Murray could sing? His untrained voice is convincing in Gershwin's It Ain't Necessarily So and Stephen Foster's I Dream Of Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair, and he nails Van Morrison's When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God.

Vogler, his wife - violinist Mira Wang - and pianist Vanessa Perez are but supporting actors in pieces by Saint-Saens, Bach, Schubert, Bernstein and Henry Mancini, but they do have Astor Piazzolla's tango Muerte Del Angel to themselves.

A very delightful release.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe