- Artist: Davis & Dow
- Format: CD
- Release Date:1/20/2009
Liner notes written by Will Friedwald ascap award winning author. Here's how I would define the word "playful": sing "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," and, when you get to the end of the second line, "with one enormous...," then wait as long as humanly possible before you get to the word "chair." In all the millions of times I've heard that classic show tune, it never occurred to me that "Loverly" might contain a sexual double-entendre. Mind you that Julie Davis knows well that she doesn't have to actually do anything to lead us to this conclusion, other than simply inserting a pause, to start our minds racing. In fact, it's the not doing anything that does the trick. Like the best singers, she knows what to do and what not to do, and in this case, simply by delaying a word, she knows that our heads will do all the work for her. I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing her work in person, other than in online videos, and while I don't doubt that she uses her visual attributes costume, body language, gestures) very wisely as well, but even in the strictly-aural medium of recording she can get our minds racing on the subject of all sorts of "enormous" things. I had never heard Davis & Dow before receiving this CD in the mail, but the immediate thing that I liked about them was their sense of humor: so much of contemporary jazz, both singers and instrumentalists (cabaret as well as jazz, as a matter of fact), tend to be as serious as your life: but Davis & Dow knew what Nat King Cole, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and so many others of the great generations knew, that a sense of humor is closely related to a sense of rhythm, and in these great icons of the mid-20th century, they are but two sides to the same kind. Both Davis and Dow perform "You're My Thrill" seductively enough, accenting it's undertow of undulatingly erotic qualities - this is as good a place as any to point out Kelly Dow's gypsy-style guitar work, and how he executes a manouche version of a tango. (Likewise, on "Caravan," Mr. Dow has got us convinced that, the lyric to the contrary, this is hardly a "desert caravan" but one of the Romany variety.)On "You're My Thrill," I can't help but smile when I hear Ms. Davis play not only with the lyrics and the melody but the very sound of her voice, which she makes sound like Billie Holiday one second and Shirley Bassey the next, as if she were hopping between a Southern accent and a British accent. "Honey Pie" is a perfect piece of more contemporary material for the team, being a Beatles song written and sung by Paul McCartney with his tongue deeply in his cheek and a smile on his face. On The White Album, McCartney and producer George Martin went to the trouble of doctoring the track to make it sound like an unrestored relic from the '20s: how many rock-era songs actually have a verse that sets up the chorus. More recently, McCartney said in an interview that "Little White Lies" was a favorite song of both himself and John Lennon when they were teenagers, and if ever there was a Beatles song with a Walter Donaldson influence, this is it. Davis & Dow, contrastingly, also treat it like an authentic '20s song, by reinterpreting it, even jamming on it, as if it were "Little White Lies" or "My Blue Heaven." There's a stop-time section near the end that's especially authentic to The Jazz Age, and a cymbal crash that could have come off a vintage dance band disc; the ending is one of several spots where Davis and Dow blend together, exchanging phrases and joining in harmonies, as if they were Grappelli and Reinhardt. There's no better place for playing, musically or otherwise, than the beach, and it seems perfectly natural for a pair of South Floridians to show a fascination for "Dancing In The Sand" with "Mr. Sandman." Obviously, if delta bluesmen can sing about cotton fields and New Yorkers can sing their lullabies of Broadway and Birdland (out of towners may wonder why there are all these lullabies for the city that never sleeps) then Florida jazzers can sing a song on the sand. (At some point, I should very like to see D & D repeat these two tunes as part of a whole album of sandy songs, including "Moon and Sand," "Sand In My Shoes," "Sands of Time," "Japanese Sandman," not to mention "Sand By Me.") "Dancing" is a catchy, Brazilian-inspired original, and "Mr. Sandman" is just as creative, reinventing the late '50s hit with Hot Club of France-style interplay (and a clever intro, referencing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" before two guitars render the opening lines in counterpoint). Davis doesn't need to mess with the melody to personalize it. Much as I like the Chordettes (the name always suggested a musical education system for an all-girl's kindergarten), I never found myself actually patting my foot and snapping my fingers to "Mr. Sandman" before. D & D's treatment of "Underneath The Apple Tree" makes me regret that I hadn't paid much attention to Michael Franks over the years; his "Popsicle Toes" always left me somewhat cold (ha!) but "Apple Tree" fits perfectly into their trajectory of serious musicianship and playful subject matter. After the well-known "Caravan" (how nice it is to hear that classic tune employed as anything other than a two-hour drum solo!), the team treats us to a pair of lesser-known works by well-known composers: Irving Berlin's "Reaching For The Moon" shows why he was one of the great American masters of the waltz (take that, Franz Lehar!), and the piece effectively showcases violinist Federico Britos; "Azure" is an underdone Ellington tune that D & D set to an exotic rhythm pattern so as to convey the proper sense of drifting, dreaming in an azure mood. "Dedicated to You" is early Sammy Cahn & Saul Chaplin (not to mention Hy Zaret of "Unchained Melody" fame) from the period when Sammy primarily wrote for swing bands and black performers. Cleverly, this is one of two swing era tunes from the early Ella Fitzgerald book (the other is "Stairway to The Stars") that Davis & Dow chose to do in the most intimate manner imaginable, and not necessarily by employing the obvious method of slowing the tempo down to somewhere to the point where snails seem to be racing by. Here I was particularly struck by not only how playful the music of Davis & Dow is, but how extremely musical. Then again, I could say that about the whole album. Liner Notes from Loverly by Will Friedwald.
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your version of Flash Player.