This new CD by B E D (that’s Becky Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, and Dan Barrett — joined by Joel Forbes and Jeff Hamilton) is a wonder. But since aesthetic criticism should have more substance than that, I must tell you about the late Howard Siegman, who was my professor of Dramatic Literature in the days when we wrote our essays on typewriters and went to the card catalogue to look up information in books. Professor Siegman began the Drama Appreciation course by teaching us the three principles of criticism — precepts we had to master before we could be allowed to visit the college theatre. “I liked it,” “I didn’t like it” were both punishable by serious frowning and lowered grades.
The precepts were:
1. What is the artist attempting to do?
2. How well has he or she succeeded at doing it?
3. Was it worth doing in the first place?
Applying these precepts to the new BED CD (Blue Swing Fine Recordings BSR 008) I came up with these answers after much listening and serious study.
1. The stated purpose of BED is “To swing and have fun.” This translates into beautiful rhythmic singing and playing, full of subtle improvisation — with joy being the prevailing emotion, even on the ballads. The group is a living example of jazz empathy: the rocking backgrounds to the singing of the three participants, the delicious instrumental solos and jamming, the peerless support of Joel’s bass and Jeff’s drums. In addition, Dan shifts from trombone to cornet to piano, and the repertoire is wonderfully varied. This is one of the few CDs in recent memory that I listened to in one sitting.
2. See # 1. And: I think this group has gotten better and better on each of its CDs. In addition, the recorded sound (courtesy of the fine trumpeter and recording engineer Bryan Shaw) is faultless. And the repertoire: a groovy “Hucklebuck,” a deeply felt “East of the Sun,” a down-home “Seven Lonely Days,” a romping instrumental version of “Midnight in Moscow.” The group also takes chances that come off in high style. The first gamble is in performing James P. Johnson’s pretty “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart,” most memorably recorded in 1949 by Louis and Billie — a tough act to follow. Becky and Dan do a fairly close version of that record without adopting the surface mannerisms of either singer, and it works — against anyone’s expectations. A 1937 Tommy Dorsey-style “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” with the men of the chorus offering witty rejoinders to Becky’s reading of the melody, is nearly as much fun. And Jeff Hamilton drives this combo along perfectly: the sound of his silvery cymbals is music to exult by. Eddie’s “Jubilee” is suitably groovy; Becky has uncovered the verse to “You’re A Lucky Guy,” and these days, doesn’t everyone need to be reminded that “The Best Things in Life Are Free”?
3. There are two possible answers here: a) “See # 1 and # 2. b) “Hell, yes!”
This is an extraordinarily fine session — playful, soulful, hot, and subtle. The songs are: I’ve Heard That Song Before / This Can’t Be Love / East of the Sun / Jubilee / Cheek to Cheek / Say It (Over and Over Again) / The Hucklebuck / You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart / Midnight in Moscow / You’re A Lucky Guy / Cross Your Heart / The Best Things in Life Are Free / Seven Lonely Days / Drum Boogie / I’ll See You In My Dreams //
It’s available through www.worldsrecords.com. Don’t be the last one on your block!
P. S. If you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of Worlds Records, you’re missing out on a great firm. I’ve been buying CDs from them for years. And if we want small indepent businesses to survive, we need to support them.