Group returns with ambitious, original treat
By Chris Rietz
For the Lansing State Journal
Published January 20, 2005
CD review: Royal Garden Trio
It's the group's second album, with the same non-title as the first; but Michigan's Royal Garden Trio has managed to make an ambitious, broad-ranging album that surpasses even its first - and that's no mean trick.
In fact, RGT's vigorous musical hybrid - blending the Parisian cafe with the American nightclub - manages to be fresh and original without being exotic; a rarity anywhere and nearly unheard of in jazz.
The boys bring an array of guests aboard this time, starting with string bassist Gian Paulo, who gives an already thick trio sound (thanks to Mike Karoub's cello) even more punch. Ann Arbor jazz stalwart James Dapogny lends his piano to a couple of tracks, too, along with trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and others.
Duet singers Paul King and Melissa Brady bring a cabaret feel to "East of the Sun" and "Slow Boat to China." Even more welcome is the talented Detroit folkie Jo Serrapere, who lends a smoky, understated voice to "Undecided."
Davison's Tom Bogardus (who wrote the album's two originals) doubles on tenor guitar and clarinet, with a hard-edged, straight-ahead, Sidney Bechet-like style. Many have chops, but only the best can really make the ballads sing; and Bogardus's lyrical soprano sax on Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" is an album highlight.
Guitarist Brian Delaney admirably distances himself from the faster-and-louder school of Django Reinhardt wannabes, and his Continental style - and his breathing, well-constructed solos - find that elegance, not to mention swing, that so many miss.
Mike Karoub's freewheeling cello playing is such a knockout it's a wonder there aren't more jazz cellists - maybe they're just afraid to sneak out of the conservatory. Listen to him tear it up on the full-band "Viper's Dream" or the album-ending Lang & Venuti vehicle "Raggin' the Scale."
As a bonbon for dessert, Delaney throws in (as an unlisted "hidden track") a guitar solo: Eddie Lang's wistful parlor piece "April Kisses." Bon appetit!
Chris Rietz works at Elderly Instruments in Lansing. His reviews appear every other week in What's On.
"The Royal Garden Trios' Second" is the latest offering from the Detroit-based Traditional Jazz combo. It picks up were the debut recording left off--swinging thru 12 new tracks, including 2 original compositions by tenor guitarist & clarinetist Tom Bogardus.
What separates this recording from the first is the expansion of the groups sound and concept."Before any mic cable was plugged or chart inked, Mike, Tom and I thought about how to approach the second recording." said guitarist Brian Delaney recently."We all agreed that this time out we would make use of collaboration as a means to further hone and solidify RGT's sound."
The CD features special musical guests Bess Bonnier, a Detroit jazz legend playing piano on "Jitterbug Waltz", with traditional jazz heavyweight James Dapogny on piano and New York-based trumpter Jon-Erik Kellso on "At The Jimmy's Bar" and "The Vipers Dream". Featured vocalists include Ms. Jo Serrapere on "Undecided" and Rhythm Society Swing Orchestra's Paul King with Melissa Brady dueting on "East Of The Sun" and "On A Slow Boat To China".
Stylistically, the record ranges from the tightly arranged hard-swinging RGT we know and love on "Raggin' The Scale" to the Manouche Party-approved "Swing '02". Also included are two seldom covered Django-era tracks and the beautiful Ellington classic "Come Sunday" featuring Tom Bogardus on Soprano Saxophone. They've truly covered the bases this time out with something for everyone--from burners to ballads to crooners, it's here.
"Rather than pushing themselves to produce a second CD immediately after the first, the trio has taken its time. The result,self titled like the first, was worth waiting for."--Dave Riddle