Thursday, November 1, 2012

John Proulx The Best Thing For You MaxxJazz 2012

John Proulx is a Grammy Award-Winning composer that has put together one of those rare releases that brings to mind the phrase "instant classic" with his latest offering The Best Thing For You.

Proulx covers a great deal of ground on this incredibly diverse offering. From solid originals and genres that range from jazz to Brazilian and from hip-hop to pop, Proulx offers up a little something for most every taste in an old school turns new cool fashion that hits on all cylinders. Some incredible guests artists include the lovely and talented Sara Gazarek, the great Michael Feinstein and guitar great Larry Koonse just to get started. The fact Proulx is commonly referred to as an old soul but pulling off the transition of old school becoming new cool is a rare feat and further confirmation of just what a special talent Proulx truly is. The fusion of genres and the jazz sensibilities used in their translation creates an open ended ebb and flow that is organic by nature and entertainment by design. Proulx's vocal ability has been compared to a young Chet Baker and while I shy away from pigeon holing an artist based on the work of another the perspective here is spot on and swinging!

Kicking the release off is the Irving Berlin title track "The Best Thing For You (Would Be Me)" which Proulx nails with effortless precision. This particular arrangement brings in the band on a gradual member by member basis as the groove is literally laid down in a sonic foundation of a all star with a musical synergy that is infectious. Saxophone phenom Bob Sheppard lays down a delightful improvisational solo capturing the spirit and lyrical direction of this iconic standard. Proulx answers with a deft touch on a piano solo that simply seals the deal and reinforces his tasty harmonic base from which he operates. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" is a fresh reharm with a articulated subtle contemporary approach that shifts meter and dynamics with a deceptive blues infusion running just below the surface. Some pop songs make the transition to or with jazz sensibilities well and some don't and when noticing Sarah McLaughlin's "Angel" there was some worry that the potential to crash and burn on this tune was legitimate. Again, preconceived notions and running out of coffee mid stream and a critics two worst enemies. Proulx handles this organic pop hit like the pro that he is. Oh, did I mention that Sara Gazarek helps out on the vocals and closes the deal on tune that should have some serious cross over potential. The lyrical direction coupled with Proulx's keen harmonic sense push this tune to the top of the favorite list on this stellar release. The "Cannonball" Adderley is pure fun. A beat you hear with your feet and feel in your hips. Ron Stout does a stellar performance along with the solo from guitarist Larry Koonse. Later Proulx tackles the Billy Joel classic "And So It Goes" and his riff on the Joel classic in many ways rivals the original. Proulx embraces the Joel melody and places his own indelible stamp on this pop classic. Bob Sheppard does a masterful job on soprano and once again the translation of a pop classic is spot on. Proulx's solo here is perfectly understated fitting in with a more zen like approach of the less is more theory and there are simply some melodies that must be allowed to breath on their own. Pulling off a cover such as "And So It Goes" without disrespecting the original or yourself is the sign of a superior artist. Proving that jazz going back to the old school days of the Crosby/Kaye duets can and should be fun, Proulx's duet with Michael Feinstein is as entertaining as it gets. Closing out the release we have Proulx's Blues lamenting the sorrows associated with a lack of cash flow that have plagued all of us on occasion. Instead of taking a more heavy handed socio-political spin on what is now a highly volatile political subject, Proulx keeps it light and relateable and focuses the attention to the music and for John Proulx that my friends is how he rolls.

The Best Thing For You is indeed John Proulx, with an all star band and solid tunes this is old school turned new cool and perhaps one of the most entertaining release you will hear all year. Highlights are virtually too numerous to list. Critical remarks would be taking hyper-critical to another level and that is not how I role. Proulx keeps getting better with each subsequent release with The Best Thing For You literally perfect.

Tracks: The Best Thing For You; Sing; Jogger Chronicles; Love Is For Dreamers; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Angel; Wabash; Before We Say Goodnight; Push Hands Anna; And So It Goes; Two Of A Kind; In The Days Of Our Love; Here's To The Chuckster; Proulx's Blues.

Personnel: John Proulx: vocals & piano; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Joe Labarbera: drums; Sara Gazarek: vocals (4,6,8); Michael Feinstein: vocals (11); Bill Cunliffe: piano (12); Bob Shepphard: soprano, tenor saxophone & flute (1,3,5,8,10,11); Larry Koonse: guitar (2,4,7,8,9); Ron Stout: trumpet (1,3,7,11); Jeremy Boersma: cello (6);