CD Reviews

Banu Gibson
Banu Gibson Sings Johnny Mercer
(Swing Out)

For more than 20 years, Banu Gibson has used her unique skills as swinging jazz singer, theatrical showperson and musicologist to enrich our music scene. Tourists as well as harder-to-please locals have savored her lustrous voice and the devotion she brings to traditional jazz and swing. When jazz singers do a "songbook," it's typically that of the composer of music: George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael.

Banu Gibson Sings Johnny Mercer takes a different tack, celebrating the work of an amazingly prolific lyricist (Mercer wrote over 1,000 song lyrics, and sometimes it seems that every good song from the '30s and '40s had words by either he or Louisiana native Mitchell Parish). Gibson tackles not only some of Mercer's best-known songs ("I Thought About You," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "One for My Baby") but also some wonderful obscurities ("Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?" and "Empty Tables"). Today's songwriters, many of whom have trouble putting together a single-syllable rhyme, would do well to study Mercer's refined yet natural way with words: "Drinking again/And thinking of when/You loved me; Having a few/And wishing that you/Were here ... ." Gorgeous.

This Sunday evening at Le Chat Noir, Gibson collaborates with Mercer biographer Philip Furia for a tribute to the legend, with her superb bandmates John Sheridan (piano), Bill Huntington (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums) -- all of whom appeared on the CD along with guitarist Hank Mackie. Tickets $18. -- Tom McDermott

Banu Gibson and Philip Furia present Jeepers Creepers at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30, at Le Chat Noir.

I'm Still Standing
(JBond/Blue Soul)

Often you can tell how good a record is going to be from the first line; Timothea establishes herself at the beginning of I'm Still Standing with, "Aw, get ready, baby, I'm on my way!" The first cut, "Middle of the Night," has all of the hallmarks of Timothea's music. It has her sultry voice, sexy lyrics, and a bouncy groove that combine into roadhouse heaven.

Timothea assumes many roles, from the woman about to leave her man in "Time for Change" to her trading sweet nothings with Leon Russell in "I Belong to You" to the flirtatious duet with Walter "Wolfman" Washington "Maybe Later" that sound like the playful call-and-response of Johnny Adams and Ruth Brown on Brown's R+B = Ruth Brown. Timothea convincingly portrays each of these roles in the same way she has taken stages all over greater New Orleans since she was a preteen singing in her aunt's bar in Westwego.

The music stays in the realm of standard blues progressions and funk grooves except for her two covers of tunes made famous by Elvis Presley and Earl King. In "Crawfish" (originally in Elvis's King Creole), she sings the virtues of mudbugs surrounded by a mysterious, almost-Dr. John groove. On Earl King's "Time for the Sun To Rise," she takes one of King's best songs from its philosophical heights and drone guitar to firmly ground it on this planet with Bob Andrews' keyboard fills and Tracy Griffin's punchy horn arrangements. -- David Kunian

Timothea performs at 10 p.m. Sunday at d.b.a.\

World Leader Pretend
Fit for Faded

So much popular music today is derivative of previous styles or pandering to the lowest common denominator. Christina Aguilera can sing, but she isn't fit to polish Etta James' throne. However, there are just as many good artists who show their influences but aren't slaves to them.

World Leader Pretend's debut effort, Fit for Faded, shows its influences but isn't consumed by them. There are electric blips and graceful falsettos that Radiohead has done so well. Some of the songs flow like Pearl Jam. The lyrics have an obliqueness perfected by R.E.M. -- perhaps its namesake? However, none of these aspects overwhelm the songs themselves, and the songs themselves are great. Whether plodding slow numbers such as the title track or the slide guitar-driven "fire with fire," the tunes are catchy without being inane and are filled with hooks that will be in your head for at least a day.

World Leader Pretend even varies its successful formula by the end of the CD. "Shape-shifter" is a quasi hardcore/New Wave rave-up complete with almost barking vocals that morphs into a mid-tempo bridge before going back to the beginning rhythms that accurately portray the title. Two songs, the group ends the record with a song that uses a horn section complete with simple trumpet solo. This punctuates the from-the-gut vocals that build to a beautiful, almost inspirational ending before the horn section cuts up the final moments. It is a fitting close to a promising first record. -- Kunian

Add a comment