Julie O'Hara: ...Paper Moon & Smoke Rings
George Washingmachine/Julie O'Hara
Australia-based singer Julie O'Hara hangs out with a very convivial bunch. It's clear from her two recent releases, ...Paper Moon, with George Washingmachine, and Smoke Rings, with "Rifftet, her four-man band, that she and her entertaining cohort have spent a lot of time performing together live and in the studiotheir prodigious and varied output suffers not a bit for the whimsy.
Maintaining composure might have proved difficult beside a fellow with the last name of "Washingmachine. If so O'Hara never shows it. She glides breezily through the tunes on "...Paper Moon, always well-modulated and in control, even when she and Washingmachine go head to head on their highly energized vocal solos. Washingmachine is hardly mere comic relief; he plays a mean violin and applies his amiable, smokey baritone dextrously as both a backup and lead singer (his snoring on the blues tune, "Lazy Bones notwithstanding).
The two share a laid-back (but precise) rhythmic understanding, accentuated by Andy Ross's driving bass lines, which are featured more prominently than usual on a swing recording. Ben Johnson's graceful piano accompaniment and Lyn Wallis' responsive drumming give the disc a retrobut very hipfeel.
Besides some classic swing numbers"It's Only A Paper Moon, "Anything Goes, and a moderate "Everything Happens To Me there are some surprises, like "If I Only Had A Brain, from the movie, The Wizard Of Oz. Washingmachine and O'Hara each contribute an original to the disc, Washingmachine's clever "Pretty As A Picture and O'Hara's bright up-tempo, "Jump Up swing It. Washingmachine also created the CD's cover art: a group of six musicians cutting up beneath an oversized yellow moon. Clearly having a good time.
On O'Hara's second release, Smoke Rings, a casual read of the song titles suggests a more traditional vocal jazz CD than the end product delivers. The group's treatment of these standard tunes is anything but predictable: O'Hara and her polished "rifftet move adroitly among so many different styles (early swing, latin, R&B, country, blues) that it's a challenge to categorize the tunes. On the title cut, for instance, O'Hara breaks the country blues feel of the piece with a sophisticated scat improvisation; Chris Tanner adds a rococo, prebop clarinet solo; and guitarist Peter Baylor, who also played on ...Paper Moon, interjects some hearty blues licks.
Baylor and Tanner join O'Hara in developing the CD's vocal sound: they lock harmonies with O'Hara on "Squeeze Me and whoop the chorus in Nat King Cole's "Let's Make More Love. These two also do the lion's share of soloing, and Tanner's clarinet leads on two instrumental cuts, "Clarinet Marmalade and Lester Young's "Tickle-Toe.
O'Hara's rhythm sections deserves as much credit as her soloists for the success of the disc. O'Hara features Mark Elton (bass) and Raj Jayaweera (drums) on her interpretation of From This Moment On: her intense, burning scat hovers delicately above their unwavering pulse.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: It's Only A Paper Moon; Indian Summer; You Always Hurt The One You love; Lover Come Back To Me; If I Only Had A Brain; Lazy Bones; Anything Goes; Pretty As A Picture; If I could Be With You; Three Bears; I'll Get By; Moon Glow; Jump Up swing It; Little White Lies; Everything Happens To Me; Just You, Just Me.
Personnel: Julie O'Hara: vocals; George Washingmachine: violin, vocals; Ben Johnson: piano; Peter Baylor: guitar; Lyn Wallis: drums; Andy Ross: bass..
Tracks: I Hear Music; Body & Soul; On The Bumpy Road To Love; Living In A Dream; Clarinet Marmalade; Let's Make More Love; Smoke Rings; Stardust; Blues Stay Away; From This Moment On; Lullaby in Rhythm; Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me); Tickle-Toe.
Personnel: Julie O'Hara: vocals; Peter Baylor: guitar, vocals; Chris Tanner: clarinet, vocals; Mark Elton: acoustic bass; Raj Jayaweera: drums.