Bob Levy: Ever Since We Met: The Dane Vannatter Recordings

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Bob Levy

Ever Since We Met:
The Dane Vannatter Recordings

(Silver River Music)

June 21, 2023

Reviewed by John Amodeo

In 2005, songwriter Bob Levy, an 11-time MAC Award nominee for songwriting, sent Bistro and MAC Award-winning singer Dane Vannatter a few of his original jazz songs for his consideration, and thus began a longstanding musical partnership that spanned the next 18 years. The result is the recently released CD Ever Since We Met: The Dane Vannatter Recordings; it’s a true match between singer and songwriter as shown in 19 of Levy’s original songs that Vannatter either recorded or performed over that time. This is a lush collection of romantic standards, the kind of 1950s smooth-jazz ballads you might imagine Bobby Darin or Frank Sinatra singing. The entire collection glides along easily with a buoyant swing, and subtly distinct songs coalesce nicely through Vannatter’s soothing vocals. It’s aided by the light touch of the arrangements, and it would make the perfect backdrop for a candlelit dinner for two or twenty. With his warm velvety tenor and intelligent phrasing skill, Vannatter is the perfect muse for Levy’s sentimental musings. The way he croons each lyric recalls Mel Tormé.

On this recording, Levy’s songs explore the many shades and stages of love, from love at first sight to love gone decidedly south.

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His lyrics tread familiar territory, with such lines as “Since that magic day/skies that were all gray all turned bright blue.” Yet, it is because Levy unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve that makes this album so comforting and enjoyable.
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Take for instance the utter joy in the two songs in which the singer is proposing to his beloved. “Because I Love You” is a romantic declaration that could be sung at engagement parties until the end of time, with clever lines such as “It’s not because your family’s coming to hear me sing ‘Oh, Promise Me’/or ‘cause my legs have started numbing from kneeling down upon one knee.” In “Looks Like They’re in Love,” Levy’s penchant for effervescent wordplay is shown in the line, “See that ring, that’s a very special ring/How that shiny piece of “bling” makes her heart sing…ZING!” He’s also spot on when it comes to love souring, especially in “Please Set My Heart Free,” where he laments “We’ve burned all of our bridges,” or carps “You’re like a bad penny, not worth one thin dime.” On certain songs, such as “Will It Ever Be Spring,” Levy puts a unique spin on the ubiquitous metaphor of wishing for love to come to thaw the long cold winter. Another similarly wistful ballad, “Sooner than Someday,” cajoles a reluctant love interest to give in with “I pray it’s sooner than never/Sooner than Someday.” These lyrics may not be profound or complex, but they touch the human spirit and they are universally relatable.

What makes this recording so listenable, however, are the beguiling melodies. Most were  written by Levy himself, but several were written with top collaborators: Dennis Livingston, whose bouncy beguine enhances “Sooner Than Someday”; Ronny Whyte, whose vibrant up-tempo “Every Time When I’m With You,” has a celebratory air that just won’t quit; MAC Award winner Alex Rybeck who lends his lively spring to “Looks Like They’re in Love”; and Harriet Goldberg who gives a bright Dixieland swing to “(We’ve Got) Nothing to Lose” that nicely propels Levy’s best line “So how can we refuse/when Cupid keeps dropping clues!” Levy himself gives a nice jazz-pop sound to the title tune “Ever Since We Met” (a smoky blues) and the fun novelty number “Crazy, Crazy Dog,” and he brings an entrancing samba to “Every Time I Dance With You.”  He also brings an appropriate minor-key dark hue to “I Gave You My Love,” a “warning” song about a dangerous love that threatens to imperil the singer, until the last fateful line. Music and lyrics serendipitously intertwine in the delightful ditty “I’ve Got You to Love,” the highlight of the disc, where the finding of true love has canceled out a life of bad luck, as evidenced in the line, “My car broke down, I caught a cold/lost at cards, I always fold/You’d think I’d won a pot of gold…’cause I’ve Got You to Love.”

Levy has brought together a group of musical directors and musicians who all seem to understand his work; they find a similar groove that makes this collection into a cohesive song cycle that feels cut from one cloth. Pianist Daniel May forms the backbone of the album playing on 13 of the 19 cuts with delicate sophistication, and there are wonderful cameos by Ed Riley, the late great Tex Arnold, Tim Ray, Jim Rice, and on the final cut—“Out in the Cold” recorded live at NYC’s Laurie Beechman Theatre—the renowned Tedd Firth. Each song is buoyed by a piano/bass/drum combo, with saxophone and guitar enhancing Goldberg’s Dixieland sound on “(We’ve Got) Nothing to Lose.” Bassist Tony DiPaolis pulls even more pathos out of “I Gave You My Love” by using his bow to mournful effect.

Ultimately, it is Vannatter’s mellifluous singing, along with his elegant interpretations of Levy’s lyrics, that holds this recording together. This auspicious combination of singer and songwriter is keeping romance alive, in all its fantasy and flaws. If we are lucky, it will lead to a Volume II, hopefully sooner than someday.

John Amodeo

John Amodeo has been a contributing writer to Cabaret Scenes since 1998, has written cabaret articles for, was a cabaret journalist for Bay Windows (1999-2005), and then for Edge Publications (2005-present).  John has been producer, assistant producer, and host for several Boston-area cabaret galas over the past 25 years, and produced Brian De Lorenzo’s MACC-nominated recording “Found Treasures.” His liner notes grace several cabaret CDs. John holds degrees in landscape architecture from Cornell and Harvard Universities, and has been practicing landscape architecture in Boston for 35 years, where he is a partner in his firm. John was a founding member of the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA), and served as BACA Vice President for 2 terms. He is happily married to his favorite cabaret artist Brian De Lorenzo.