“It’s all been done before/ No new roses on the threshold floor” sings Queen Esther as the opening lines of I Still Believe in Some Kind of Love. Well, we all know there’s hardly any new under the sun when it comes to music. Most developments of a new music style take place gradually, step by step. While it’s of course nice to see music genres expand into new styles, we often find more pleasure and comfort in something that sounds familiar. Usually it’s just the way something is done that’s more important even if it has been done before. We all know one can fail terribly. But that’s not what JC, his biggish band and Queen Esther do on their album Underneath A Brookly Moon. Quite on the contrary, they excel in resurging the great American songbook of the likes of Porter, Gershwin or Berlin with fresh and original compositions.
JC Hopkins founded his fourteen piece Biggish Band a few years ago and it has since then seen singers as diverse as Victoria Williams, Martha Wainwright, Syd Straw, and Madeleine Peyroux as lead singers. But it’s Queen Esther who brings the special magic. “Queen Esther’s voice has the strength and style of Betty Carter or Sarah Vaughan, real favorites of mine,” says JC.
It’s Queen Esther’s lush and easy vocal phrasing that fits perfectly to tunes like the swinging Here Comes Love or the slow gem I’ve Got My Finger On A Star, both written by JC and Madeleine Peyroux. Queen Esther is joined by Lewis ‘Flip’Barnes on vocals on the album’s title track Underneath A Brookly Moon and Small Town, the latter is a great swing tune with impressive solos by James Zollar (trumpet) and Warren Smith (vibes) amongst others. The afore-mentioned I Still Believe In Some Kind Of Love features a wonderful and credibly vocal performance by Queen Esther on this deep song about a rather disillusioned person (I’m too cynical but what can you do/ When nobody’s been good to you/ But before you count from one to two/ I still believe in some kind of love).
Add to this songs like the stunning Show Biz’ness with JC and Queen Esther on vocals and a remarkable (muted) trumpet solo by Erik Jekabson (this tune was originally part of the musical Show Biz’ness, created by JC and poet Peter Simonelli, which ran for six months in San Francisco) or the melancholy drenched Someday and you have one of the best and most impressive swinging jazz records of today you can listen to over and over again and still discover new aspects. Kudos to JC Hopkins for bringing such gifted musicians together and for the songs he penned for this album!
Tracklisting of Underneath A Brooklyn Moon: 1. Here Comes Love/ 2. One Never Knows/ 3. I’ve Got My Finger On A Star/ 4. Ice Cream Song/ 5. Underneath A Brooklyn Moon/ 6. Small Town/ 7. I Still Believe In Some Kind Of Love/ 8. Someday/ 9. Show Biz’ness/ 10. Settle Down | released 2005 Tigerlily Records
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