If you like vocal groups like Manhattan Transfer or New York Voices I have another classic vocal quartet from Miami for you: Mad Romance. The group released in 2011 a very nice album called “Aim High”. The CD presents songs from the Great American Songbook, with some beautiful and refreshing arrangements done by leader Rick Harris who is also a professional trumpet player. Harris has re-formed this group with some big names from the Miami Jazz scene: Lisanne Lyons (voc), Wendy Pedersen (voc) and Greg Diaz (voc, sax).
The CD starts with a very funny version of “Pick Yourself Up” which features Rick Harris followed by “You Don’t Know What Love Is” which I introduced to you some weeks ago. This song is a classic vocal quartet arrangement with a nice call-and-response solo by trumpet and saxophone.
The next song on the CD is a Salsa-inspired version of “How Long Has This Been Going On” featuring Wendy Pederson on vocals supported again by trumpet and saxophone.
The promise the band makes with these first three titles is kept throughout the CD. Every song is perfectly arranged and shows a different side of the technical and musical capabilities of the group.
“From This Moment On” is a swinging up-time Jazz standard, “Time of the Season” is a cover version of the Zombies’ hit from the late sixties and “Yesterdays” a typical Jazz standard ballad.
“Aim Low” is a composition by Rick Harris and is somehow the title song of this album. The lyrics are very sarcastic, like “You wanna work, so aim low” and shows the arrogance and ignorance in the music business. The CD ends with “The Thrill Is Gone” which is again arranged as a Salsa.
I think the whole CD is brilliant and the voices fit excellently together. The variety of the arrangements is outstanding and the musical and instrumental skills of Rick Harris and Greg Diaz make this album a great experience. The best part for me are the Salsa arrangements, a Miami based vocal group should know how to do that. I hope I will have the chance to see this quartet once.
I created again a playlist for you, so you are able to listen to the songs:
The group has a website where you can download the song “Aim Low” and where you can find some more information about the band. Please look at www.madromance.com. Unfortunately I do not see any updated concert information.
The following video is also found on the website but since I think it’s very entertaining I added it right here for you:
This tune was originally written for the 1941 Universal film “Keep ‘Em Flying” but became famous in the Jazz scene in the 1950′s when Miles Davis or Chet Baker started to play and record this song.
The original key of this song is G minor and the form is a 32 bars AABA standard form. The Real Book has the song in the key of F minor and refers to the recordings of Miles Davis on “Walkin’” from 1954 and Sonny Rollins on “Saxophone Colossus” from 1956.
As this is a very popular song from the Great American Songbook there are endless versions recorded and I would like to share with you my top 5 recordings of this jazz standard:
Pat Martino (from the 1976 album “We’ll Be Together Again”): This recording finds Pat Martino with Gil Goldstein on the electric piano in their best form, playing the song very sophisticated and aesthetic and leaving a lot of space to each other proving that less notes can be more music. Pat Martino plays the melody with just a little bit of additional “decoration” and improvises over the AAB part of the second chorus with a straight even groove but without falling into a double-time feeling.
John Coltrane (from the 1962 album “Ballads”): Here we have John Coltrane’s classic quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums.
The melody is played rubato, the solo (saxophone only) is very straight swinging and the song is closed by playing the first part of the melody once more rubato. This recording is a real “classic” one and is an excellent example of the Coltrane-style of jazz music.
Chet Baker (from the album “Saga All Stars: You Don’t Know What Love Is / 1953-1955″): This recording features Chet Baker singing and playing the trumpet (his sideman are Russ Freeman (p), Carson Smith (b) and Bob Neal (d)) and is a perfect sample of cool and relaxed played Jazz music. The trumpet solo is very melodically and Baker’s lost and lonely voice is unique in it’s style. The song has been recorded at a time when Baker was one of the most influential jazz musicians representing cool and west coast jazz.
Mad Romance (from the 2011 album “Aim High”): Mad Romance (www.madromance.com) is a Miami-based vocal quartet which released this song on their entertaining CD “Aim High”. Here we hear a nicely arranged vocal quartet with beautiful voicings and a lovely dialog between trumpet and saxophone.
Eliane Elias (from the 2013 album “I Thought About You (A Tribute to Chet Baker)”): 50 years after Chet Baker’s recording we have tribute recording by Eliane Elias. Her voice reminds me a little bit of Chet’s voice since it has also less volume or vibrato and her style inspired by her Brazilian roots is also cool and smooth and so she finds the ideal balance for this song in her singing and in the piano solo.
All the songs are found either on Amazon or iTunes for download. I prepared a playlist on iTunes for you so you can listen yourself to the versions presented.
If you know a version of that song that is quite special or unique in it’s arrangement, please leave a comment.