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Call Me Irresponsible: The Songs of Jimmy Van Heusen Lucy Wijnands & John Di Martino (2022) REVIEW

Brooklyn-based jazz vocalist Lucy Wijnands, part of the Wijnands KC jazz legacy, has a new album. It is a remarkable album, at once a tribute to the past, but with a flair for today.

Although the songs are rooted in jazz and pop culture of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, Lucy brings the tunes into a contemporary context, and she features contemporary luminaries and rising stars to accompany her remarkable, stellar voice. These include Dave Stryker, on guitar, who in addition to his own solo junkets to KC, has also been featured as part of Matt Kane’s group. Kane came up in KC and spent formative years in Alaadeen’s group, among others. If you are new to Lucy, and her last name sounds familiar, it is because she is the accomplished daughter of KC jazz pianist Bram, who she also teams up with as a piano and vocal duo on occasion, when back in town.

“Lucy has deep roots in the world of jazz,” writes Neon Jazz host and JAM writer Joe Dimino, “Her father is veteran Kansas City jazz pianist Bram Wijnands (why-nands). She grew up sitting on his lap as he played the keys. ‘I really do have a special musical bond with my dad. I'm grateful for that. He’s so passionate about what he does. It's like a religion for him,’” said Lucy On the album, pianist John Di Martino is so in sync with Lucy that it almost sounds like one person playing the ebony and ivory keys and singing. But it is two, two totally in tune. Where Lucy breathes, John riffs and ornaments, complements. Peter Washington (on bass) and Willie Jones III (on drums) round out the rhythm section, which really swings. It is propulsive. And it also is in keeping with the earlier decades in which the tunes were composed and set. Harry Allen has as smooth, almost liquid tone, and at least one tune ends quietly, but dramatically, with his breath in the horn, soft, and almost no note. As the album’s subtitle reminds, these are the songs of Jimmy Van Heusen. That includes standards like “Darn That Dream,” co-written with lyricist Eddie DeLange. Or the many songs Van Heusen wrote with lyricist Sammy Cann, such as “Call Me Irresponsible” from Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963), which won a Best Song Academy Award. As part of an extensive oeuvre of work, Van Heusen wrote the music for five Broadway musicals: Swingin' the Dream (1939), Nellie Bly (1946), Carnival in Flanders (1953), Skyscraper (1965), and Walking Happy (1966). I have listened to this album straight through five times, and it never gets old. Lucy’s voice is engaging, and the band supports her seamlessly. It’s a beautiful “singer’s album.” It is transporting. Get it. See (and hear) these tunes in a new light. —Kevin Rabas

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