By Frank Kocher
Jazz lovers are in for a treat: the Danny Green Trio is established as a solid presence in the San Diego area jazz scene, with five CD releases and well-earned international recognition. Leonard Patton likewise has a considerable cachet as an expressive jazz, gospel, and blues singer, with several of his own solo recordings, and has been heard with such local jazz luminaries as Peter Sprague and Geoffrey Keezer. No surprise that when both Green’s band and Patton combine, the result is an embarrassment of riches.
Viola, LP and the Vinyl are here, on their debut record, Heard and Seen. This ten-track project mixes Green originals, jazz standards, and wonderfully arranged adaptations of pop songs by artists as varied as David Bowie, the Beatles, Tears for Fears, and others. Green’s piano, Justin Grinnell’s bass, and drummer Julien Cantelm provide a great launching pad for Patton in a set with inspired spontaneity, where Patton is clearly in his element.
“The Lonely Band” opens, one of two Green-penned songs; pop-inspired, it rides on Cantelm’s dynamic propulsion with Green alternately laying down a catchy groove, then taking opportunities to riff out on solos. Patton’s vocal gets great bottom to work with as he sings lyrics about how a being jazz musician is a solitary profession with creativity as its own reward. Next, a rebuilt-for-jazz version of Bowie’s “Life on Mars” is proof that a good song will always rise to the top—it carries the lyrical oddities of the original, including such prescient lyrics as “Take a look at the lawman/ Beating up the wrong guy/ Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know/ He’s in the best selling show.” Recorded in 1971… hmm.
Another pop tune given the Green treatment, “The Fool on the Hill” follows. Seemingly written with a jazz arrangement in mind, the familiar melody is given a free-form reading that Patton makes the most of. The standard “My One and Only Love” is a slowed-down gem that Patton breathes life into, as he first walks in Sinatra’s footsteps smoothly and digs in to pump the closeout of the song with some funk feel.
New Wave jazz? “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” sold millions for Tears for Fears in the ’80s with a great built-in hook that Green wisely recreates on the piano. The melody as recited by Patton stays close to the original and it totally clicks. “I Can’t Help It” is another example of a solid jazz standard given a great treatment that plays to the strengths of both Green—with his best improvisation on the disc, and Patton who fills the vocal slot with R&B-influenced energy. There are other standout tracks, with Green’s “Night Waltz,” another great moment, and they even do a jazz transformation of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” closes the set, from a 1928 Hammerstein/ Romberg operetta. It starts slow and tantalizing, then blossoms into a ten-minute dance between Green’s bass-key heavy piano and Patton’s scat singing, smoothly flowing and in no hurry.
LP and the Vinyl strike jazz gold with Heard and Seen.
See review at San Diego Troubadour