Harold Sanditen

Shades of Blue

LML Music
Harold Sanditen may be feeling blue, but listeners will find this recording delightfully uplifting and, at times, downright fun. Sanditen has a forthright vocal style—simple, straightforward, sincere—with a nice, clear tone that’s free of vocal histrionics. What makes his latest album so entertaining is not simply his vocal skill, but also the superb support he gets from his musicians.

Recorded live at The Pheasantry in London, the CD combines classic cabaret with light jazz, typified best by a mash-up of “A Night in Tunisia” (Hendricks/Gillespie) with “You and the Night and the Music” (Dietz/Schwartz)—the dissonance of the first blending with the sweetness of the second, then having the music on the latter song take on a rougher edge and ending with the lyric, “After our night in Tunisia ends/I’ll still have you.”

The “shades of blue” in the album’s title include an ebullient, bouncy arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Shakin’ the Blues Away” followed by a slow, jazz-infused “Birth of the Blues” (DeSylva/Brown/Henderson)—featuring powerful trumpet accompaniment by Steve Bentley-Klein and a lovely flute solo by Bob Sydor—with Sanditen singing a dynamic harmony line to the music.

The album includes some straightforward standards, like “The Way You Look Tonight” (Kern/Fields), which features Sanditen’s tender, evocative vocal blended with a mournful violin line by Bentley-Klein, and an effective version of Bart Howard’s “In Other Words” (“Fly Me to the Moon”) backed by Sydor’s powerful saxophone.

The CD also shows off Sanditen’s taste for more contemporary songs, including Leon Russell’s pretty ballad, “Bluebird” and a smooth performance of Billy Joel’s “He’s Got a Way,” featuring an effective bass line by Dave Olney. There’s a simple, plaintive version of Stevie Nicks’s “Landslide” that features strong piano work by Michael Roulston and a warm, strong vocal on Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light.”

In addition, there several novelty numbers—none more pleasing than the up-tempo, honky-tonk-sounding “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” (Swanstrom/ McGarron/Morgan), which includes outstanding tongue-twisting patter written by Sanditen himself and Bentley-Klein’s effective violin. Other novelty standouts include “I’m Hip” (Dorough/Frishberg), which allows Sanditen to show, within the context of the song, how hip he can be by jazzing up a variety of popular songs, and Shel Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue,” with the singer putting a novel twist on the country classic by singing it in an accent that succeeds in crossing British upper-crust with Bette Davis.

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
July 1, 2013