The Jazz Ambassadors have been described as a mix of Seasoned Veterans and Young Lions. What is for sure on this recording is that they are a gathering of dynamic musicians who offer a tonic of timeless jazz vocal classics.
Ron Kaplan has put together a tight piano trio with Eddie Mendenhall on piano, Dan Robbins on bass and Steve Robertson on drums to perform some of the most revered songs from the exotic treasure chest of the "Great American Songbook". These songs need no introduction to the listener and provide a montage of wonderful arrangements, improvisation and dazzling musicianship.
Ron is a connoisseur of this music and has studied the history of its birth, rise and interpretation for four decades. This wealth of experience and immersion in the genre provides him with the tools he needs to deliver the warmth and dexterity he offers on the Jazz Ambassadors.
Like the opening It Don't Mean A Thing, a swinger from the outset with the rhythm section and vocalist employing a certain amount of artistic freedom with a walking bass predominant throughout. On this cut Ron has the warm and mature delivery of a later day Mel Torme.
The Bossa Nova version of Body And Soul is the album's highlight for me, a wonderful listening experience of the Heyman, Green, Sour and Eyton classic.
September Song is an eclectic offering performed in the Tony Bennett style: "I Left MY Heart...". Ron's venerable vocal style leads to a spectacular piano solo from Eddie Mendenhall and provides an atypical expression of the musical integrity of when this song was first penned.
On an album of true class and panache, other highlights include the magical Stella By Starlight, Green Dolphin Street, and the jewel in the crown, 'Round Midnight, the Thelonious Monk classic where Ron evokes compassion in his stylistic vocal paraphrasing and flair.
The closing Don't Get Around Much Anymore is panoply of articulations and rhythms, which reiterates the romantic lyricism by Ron, and the spontaneous appeal of this tight piano trio.
Unfortunately it is difficult to find an album nowadays of vocal jazz classics performed with astute vocal and rhythmic detail but" Jazz Ambassadors" is an eloquent testimony which provides a continuum for great male vocal jazz.
The whole package has a pristine feel and encapsulates these vintage songs with a quartet of superior musicians who have risen to the challenge to provide a trademark jazz set.
This recording is not to be missed and is available from Kapland Records or EuroClubdeJazz Showcase Artists.