Michael Quinn 2009-01-15
Ray Gelato was absorbing the influence of jazz giants long before he first picked up a tenor sax 30 years ago. In this foot-stamping, curtain-shaking, door-rattling tribute to them, the London-born son of a music-loving American airman storms out of the speakers with a predictably winning swagger.
Backed by longtime cohorts, The Giants, Gelato offers homage to a host of greats – Fats Waller, Cab Calloway and Louis Prima among them – to deliver a dozen standards with all the conviction of diehard fan and the delight of an assured musician whose default is to err on the side of showmanship.
If Gelato's smokey-toned, colour-muted voice is closer to the nightclub bravura of a Louis Prima than the cocktail-bar sophistication of a Tony Bennett, he can't be faulted instrumentally. On Boulevard Of Broken Dreams he shrewdly transfers the vocal line to rough-edged tenor sax. And where Hoagy Carmichael's heart-melting Stardust gets a sublimely lovelorn and longing treatment, Rags to Riches struts with a quietly cocky brio while Night and Day is peppy and alive.
Prima's I'm In The Mood For Love comes closest to a straight vocal cover, and Gelato delivers it with a glint in the voice that sparks awesomely virtuosic accompaniment from the Giants.
Two numbers eloquently testify to Gelato's own writing abilities. A Little More To Love owes more than a little to the understated sheen of Nat King Cole, while the bright, jumpin' jive buoyancy of Is That Train Ever Comin', a tribute to Louis Jordan, is infectiously sure-footed.