Another review of Imagination

Posted by Yeah Yeah Records

This one at

The second recording for vocalist Yoon Sun Choi and pianist Jacob Sacks explores the music of composer Joe Raposo, who died in 1989 days shy of his 52nd birthday. Known for writing songs favored by his longtime friend Frank Sinatra, as well as jazz, musical theatre, pop and children’s productions (notably Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss,) Raposo’s music offers a wellspring of interesting choices for interpretation. What Choi and Sacks give to his music is a challenging edge that harkens back to both the bop tradition and the exploratory nature of modern creative expressionism. Choi’s pretty voice is as flexible an instrument as you might hear in contemporary jazz. She’s easily able to scat, contort phrases, or offer witty repartee. Sacks is a different kind of piano accompanist, part Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Misha Mengelberg. His quirky style and at times abrupt inserts are quite like vocal quips. At their most reflective, the long wispy ballad “Little Things” is quite reminiscent of something Norma Winstone might do, the very delicate “Imagination” has Sacks stretching out his intro, and there’s a decidedly dour take of the well known theme of Kermit The Frog, “Bein’ Green.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, a wild, bouncy, loose and free take of “Somebody Come Out & Play” mixes up their dynamic stance in an imagined meeting of perhaps Anita O’Day and Chick Corea. The unrestrained, stride like and self-effaced “Not Much Of A Dog,” one minute rumbling, campy and comedic “What Makes Music” and the fun playground tune “J Jump” shows their cartoonish side. “Song Of Five” is a spastic improvised numbers game for Choi’s chops, “Happiness Hotel” seems a paean to Sheila Jordan, and “La, La, La” is a skipping, clipped lope with insistent roiling piano finger rolls from Sacks setting off Choi’s scat language. “Sing” offers the most contrast in one piece, with dark mystery challenging the joie de vivre. This is certainly an intriguing project, not conventional as Raposo’s music might be categorized, and a wondrous collection transmuting his songs in a way the composer might have not imagined, but definitely would approve.

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