Fresh impressions can be misleading and when I first heard the CD by JaLaLa several months ago, it did not leave a strong impression. Turning back to it after several months, I react quite differently as it was truly one of the musical delights of 2009
JaLaLa is a female vocal trio of Janis Siegel, Laurel Massé, and Lauren Kinham. Siegel is a long-time member of Manhattan Transfer while Masse was a founding member of that celebrated vocal group. Kinham is a member of the New York Voices. The three got together to do a celebration of the music of Johnny Mercer, The Old Mercer Magic (Dare Records) which opens with the lively “Spring, Spring, Spring,” followed by a marvelous reworking of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” which starts as if it was an Aretha Franklin alternate of “Chain of Fools,” before the trio tear into it as the band shifts to a New Orleans street funk groove with a terrific Lee Soloff trumpet solo.
“Jeepers Creepers” features some dazzling vocalese from Siegel as well as a nifty guitar solo from Frank Vignola, while, Kinham delivers a buoyant “My Shining Hour,” transformed into a bossa nova. “Accentuate the Positive” playfully opens with a klezmer clarinet and a bit of as revival meeting before the three launch into their melodious harmony with a bouncy backing, lovely clarinet, keen steel guitar and some downhome fiddling, giving it a slight country tinge. “Dream” conjures up a World War II vocal trio such as the Andrew Sisters with simple guitar chord accompaniment.
“I’m Old Fashioned” is a marvelous feature for Massé backed solely by bassist David Finck, while Kinham scats her way on “Riding on the Moon,” with pianist Yaron Gershovsky standing out as well as trumpeter Soloff playing with a mute. There is a playfulness throughout as well as an obvious love of Johnny Mercer. Also splendid is the medley of “Moon River” and “Moon Country,” which opens with Vignola’s guitar laying out the soft rhythm for Massé’s lovely vocal, before Siegel and Kinham join for “Moon Country,” with some steel guitar embellishments added, again displaying some original touches that they have brought to this marvelous tribute to one of the grand masters of American song. It should be readily available at various online stores (amazon, itunes, etc.) and better stores.