Old gems get new life

From the opening track, Why Can't You Behave?, with a guitar vamp giving it a bluesy edge, this debut album is a crowd-pleaser.

Bassist and musical director John Miller has apparently been a Broadway fixture for three decades.

At the grand old age of 63, he has released his first album - a line-up of Broadway gems gets made over in surprising ways that make even some old chestnuts sound brand new.

Miller's singing voice is a tad on the nasal side: He sounds like a jazz-blues cross between John Pizzarelli and Willie Nelson. His low-key, folksy delivery is just right for retooling familiar favourites in unfamiliar ways.

It is fun listening to him take on female-centric tunes such as My Fair Lady's Wouldn't It Be Loverly and Oklahoma's I Cain't Say No.

The former gets an arrangement with harmonica and twangy guitars that resets the scenery from London's Covent Garden to a rustic farmhouse in the American Midwest.

  • JAZZ

    STAGE DOOR JOHNNY: JOHN MILLER TAKES ON BROADWAY

    John Miller

    P.S. Classics

    5 stars

I Cain't Say No flips the gender stereotypes of the lyrics on their head to charming effect when sung by a man.

The most startling makeovers are for Peter Pan's I Won't Grow Up, which becomes a hard-edged funk rebel anthem, and the one non-Broadway track, Secret Love, re-arranged with a funky bassline vamp and a swinging horn-section interlude that eliminates all hints of the saccharine.

A marvellous range of treatments that give old gems bright new life.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2019, with the headline Old gems get new life. Subscribe