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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Vocal Madness

HouseKat Records
(Catalogue Number
Not Supplied)



  1. Now I Have Everything But You

  2. It's The Same Thing Everywhere

  3. Tokyo Rose Sings The Blues

  4. Take Me Away

  5. So You're Gone

  6. Bossa Nova Eyes

  7. He Was The Cat

  8. Pure Imagination

  9. I Got Friends

  10. Vanna Bonta

  11. DC Farewell

  12. I Love Lucy

Ginny Carr - Alto vocal

Robert McBride - Tenor vocal

Holly Shockey - Soprano vocal

André Enceneat - Bass vocal

Richie Cole - Alto sax (tracks 1-4, 6-8, 10-12)

Steve Herberman - Guitar

Alan Blackman - Piano

Max Murray - Bass

Frank Russo - Drums

Chris Walker - Trumpet (track 7)

Jen Krupa - Trombone (track 7)

Chris Vadala - Alto sax (track 7)

Leigh Pilzer - Tenor sax (track 7)

Chris Rose - Percussion (track 12)

This vocal quartet, based in Washington DC, owe a debt to predecessors in this field, acknowledged in the album's dedication to the late Tim Hauser, founder of The Manhattan Transfer. The disc features, on all but two of the tracks, the alto sax player Richie Cole. A couple of my jazz reference books are a little bit patronising when it comes to Richie, although jazz audiences have always been more whole-hearted in their appreciation of his talents, influenced as he was from high school days by his mentor, the great Phil Woods. Speaking for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed his contribution which was not limited on this recording to his infectious bop-inspired style but also found expression in a number of tracks where he wrote the music and sometimes the lyrics, too. Ginny Carr, the alto vocalist in the group, is responsible for all bar one of the arrangements and also penned four of the songs. The overall effect is impressive although inevitably there is some unevenness, due to the varying quality of the material.

It's not a new experience for Richie Cole to be involved with a vocal quartet, bearing in mind the period in the early 1980's when he both performed and recorded with The Manhattan Transfer. He has a penchant for musical quotation, always apposite, never forced. Take Me Away, for instance, has snatches of Come Fly With Me and It Happened In Monterey while I Love Lucy, a TV theme first recorded by Cole in 1979, skilfully weaves in The Peanut Vendor and Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas. His composition Now I Have Everything But You gets the album off to a good start – a catchy tune delivered with an innate sense of swing by the quartet. In addition, there is Cole's impassioned alto solo to savour. The second track, It's The Same Thing Everywhere (another Cole original), similarly demonstrates the fluid interaction between members of the vocal group. There are some nice touches from Alan Blackman on piano and Steve Herberman on guitar as the melody moves merrily along. Richie Cole worked with singer Eddie Jefferson from 1975 until the latter was murdered in 1979. He Was The Cat is a Ginny Carr tribute to Jefferson with an augmented group and it works on every level. Pure Imagination, a Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley song, is beautifully rendered vocally and has Cole's lushly romantic interpretation of the melody to further enhance the performance. I Got Friends is blessed with quirky lyrics and features an extended bluesy guitar solo from Herberman. Drummer Frank Russo and bassist Max Murray provide rhythmic support at all times (catch the latter musician on So You've Gone).

This is a successful collaboration, then, between the veteran saxophonist and Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet. Fans of both will want to hear it.

James Poore

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