Give Me Something Real
January 31, 2016
Reviewed by John Hoglund for Cabaret Scenes
Many have asked, “Where are the torchbearers for the Great American Songbook today?” There are wannabes floating around who have gotten serious star attention that’s arguably not warranted (like Michael Bublé or Diana Krall who are not quite the real deal or bore), but have been lucky enough to be churned out like butter and packaged well. But, today’s cabarets and jazz clubs have some great singers who deserve a shot. Welcome Dane Vannatter, who has been kicking around Boston, New York and, more recently, Pittsburgh clubs for almost two decades and has built a loyal following. He’s someone the Concord or Telarc labels might consider, especially since there is a paucity of good jazz vocalists on the market today.
While there’s no magic formula to being a great singer, some just have what it takes. Vannatter fits that bill. Whenever this jazz/swing singer hits the stage, he is known for putting his best foot forward. He never disappoints. His fourth CD, Give Me Something Real, is no exception. His rangy jazz tenor caresses songs with ease. Insightful phrasing matches the quality of his full-voiced vocals, which remain flawless.
Unlike his previous three albums, this particular disc has a more personal touch as he blends etched-in-wood classics with contemporary story songs that soar. This is obvious on beautifully realized cuts like “But Beautiful” (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen), “Blame It on My Youth” (Edward Heyman/Oscar Levant) and the album’s title cut from 1998 by Clark Anderson and Meryn Warren which stands out for its heartfelt clarity. These are sung with an intelligence and bright musicality that excels with every note. A lot of heart went into recording these gems. Kicking off with a strong bass line, the frolicsome “I Love My Bed” (Bob Haymes) is a refreshing lighthearted romp that’s given a terrific arrangement. He digs deep while retaining a strong drive on the Billy Strayhorn beauty “Something to Live For.” Such versatility only adds to the surprises on this disc that mixes the old and new. One of the CD’s most intense and trenchant cuts fuses the Coldplay hit “Fix You” (Chris Martin/Jonny Buckland/Guy Berryman/Will Chapman) with Leonard Cohen’s legendary “Hallelujah.” Joining these unique songs of shattered love and sadness is inspired, making for the album’s finest cut. They unfold a tale of wrenching drama and heartbreak in a stunning arrangement that is about riveting as it gets. Vannatter shows his level of interpretive gifts with these two formidable songs. The burnished bruise in his expressive, softer moments underscores a natural vibrato that is heartbreaking. This pairing is worth the price of the album alone, which is a hands-down winner by a singer who deserves more exposure and recognition.
The exceptional band is led by Fred Boyle (piano), with Ron Ormsby (bass), Bart Weisman (drums), Steve Ahern (trumpet), Bruce Abbott (sax/flute), Jon Evans (bass), Eric Susoeff (guitar) and Daniel May (keyboard).