Given the glut of new albums from vocalists of all stripes, a singer looking to make some noise with a debut disc would be well advised to look to So In Love, the debut album of Perry Beekman. Not so much because of any spectacular vocal gymnastics, Beekman comes across as a singer somewhere on a scale between jazz and cabaret, perhaps closer to cabaret. Not so much because he is a talented guitarist in the tradition of a Barney Kessel or a Grant Green, though his accompanying solo breaks come across as somewhere on a scale between good and excellent (often closer to excellent). Not so much because of his choice of material, though 15 Cole classics come across as somewhere between spectacular and even more spectacular. But put all three together, fine, honest vocal interpretations of top flight material with tasteful, inventive accompaniment, and you’ve got a recipe for success. So In Love: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Cole Porter is a success.
When it comes to catchy, literate, tuneful songs, a singer can’t do better than Cole Porter. Of the 15 chosen for the album, even the one or two less well-known numbers, there isn’t a dud in the bunch. These are songs that work best when they are sung as written and that’s the way Beekman sings them. This is Cole Porter unadorned, and Cole Porter unadorned is about as good as it gets. Clever verses, witty choruses, iconic melodies, these are the kind of songs that sell themselves. A singer that does too much will ruin them. Beekman understands the value of restraint and simplicity.
Accompanied by pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas, Beekman says he had given some thought to calling the album “A Tale of Two Coles” as a shout out to the memory of Nat “King” Cole who pioneered the drummerless trio. The ensemble is appealing because “it allows for both a great deal of individual expression, and the ability to create a wonderful group dynamic.” The three musicians work together in the service of the music supplementing support of the vocals with limited but solid solo work. The album does include two instrumentals—“My Heart Belongs To Daddy” and “Always True To You In My Fashion”—which allow them to show their chops.
Whether you’re talking about an infectious treatment of a perennial like “Night and Day,” with an interesting bass interlude, or a swinging arrangement of the inventive “It’s De-Lovely,” Beekman’s vocals manage to take songs that in many cases have become an integral part of our collective unconscious and reinvigorate them with much of their original energy. This is equally true for other classics like “I Love Paris,” “Just One of Those Things,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and “In the Still of the Night.” And his treatment of tunes like the less famous “I Happen to Like New York” and “Let’s Misbehave” may help to get them the attention they deserve.
Perry Beekman is no novice. He has been playing in and around New York for 25 years. So In Love is a debut album long overdue.