An integration of blue-eyed soul, modern bop, and vintage swing, vocalist Ron Boustead is adept at presenting a repertoire that merges Frank Sinatra with Michael McDonald. His fourth CD as a leader, Unlikely Valentine, is a synthesis of Jazz Age exuberance with modern pop sensibilities.
Swirling horns shape the title track into a festive whirlwind, crisscrossing into the nimble keys which give the track a touch of swing-style chic. The chimes of the keys dance around Boustead’s vocals, creating a positively charged atmosphere in this original track, which is balanced by standards like Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s 1959 pop hit, “Love Potion #9.” The melody is re-imagined with a bluesy swagger and a bouncy stride in the rhythm section that infuses vintage swing with a modern blue-eyed soul lift.
The recording transitions into the smooth, bluesy vestiges of “Coffee,” a catchy tune about coffee perceived as a common ground for two potential lovers to come together. The contemplative tone of the keys add a romantic lure to the lyrical verses as Boustead proposes, “There among the noon day crowd, her eyes meet mine … In my imagination, I extend an invitation … I whisper the words that I wish she could hear / Let’s go out for coffee … If it rained … If it came down in buckets … Made a river of the boulevard / Well, we wouldn’t care at all if it turned into a squall / We’d be safe and warm in our caffeinated storm / So let’s go out for coffee / We can watch the sun go down / Who knows just where our story ends / Maybe strangers become friends / Maybe friends turn into lovers / Lovers having coffee.”
The exotic texture of the percussive beats plumping up “I Won’t Scat” is speckled in bop-imbued improvisations helmed by the Hammond organ and bass. The CD courses into the shimmery acoustics of the guitar firing up “Til Now,” producing a sunny mood fringed in island beats. The listen switches to a comfy stroll along Johnny Mercer’s swing standard “Autumn Leaves” as the horns splash with a joyfulness that’s reminiscent of a bygone era. The balladry swells of “Love’s Carousal” are welded by plush instrumentation with silky accordion notes that give the track a euphoric mist. The shuffling beats of “Along Came Betty” brim with modern bop glitter, while the reflective vibes of “I Love My Wife” and “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers” filament the thoughtful pitch in Boustead’s vocals.
Standard jazz idioms and adult contemporary pop models come together on Unlikely Valentine, making for a blend of complementing musical influences. It is a blend that is uniquely of Ron Boustead’s own concept, taking each of these influences further than previously conceived by artists.
Ron Boustead – vocals; Bill Cunliffe – piano, Rhodes, and Hammond B3; Mitchel Forman – piano, Rhodes, Hammond B3, and accordion; John Leftwich – acoustic bass; Jake Reed – drums and percussion; Pat Kelley – acoustic and electric guitars; Bob Sheppard – saxophones and flutes; Bob McChesney – trombone; Ron Stout – flugelhorn; Fabiana Passoni – vocals on “Til Now”
“Unlikely Valentine,” “Love Potion #9,” “Coffee,” “I Won’t Scat,” “Til Now,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Love’s Carousal,” “Along Came Betty,” “I Love My Wife,” “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers”