The Tiger Walks Through My Dreams……………….
The present day “jazz” vocalist owes as much to the likes of Harry Nilsson, David Bowie, John Lydon and Sam Cooke as he does to Frank Sinatra, Joao Gilberto, Chet Baker and Mark Murphy. Or at least he should. What is modern music after all but the assemblage of a century’s worth of risk taking, experimentation, and innovation. Joe Ferrara is an artist that understands the value of all musical pathways and has immersed himself at one time or another in a wide range of musical disciplines. He is the sum of all of his influences and it shows well on his latest musical endeavor “The Tiger Walks Through My Dreams” a big band hybrid of Latin music, exotica, rock, jazz, surf, and cinematic sounds with Ferrara’s versatile croon holding it all together, seamlessly shifting from operatic baritone to soulful drawl to emotive falsetto, matching at every turn the diversity of arranger Tim Ouimette’s orchestrations. How Can it Be” couples lighting fast bebop with spaghetti western guitar riffs and rapid fire Hammond organ over which we are treated to a sortie of lyrical images: Dionysian fires, Technicolor dreams and captive symphonies. “Whiskey Island’ is the bastard son of a film noir crime theme and a smoked out stream of consciousness torch song. ‘The heart is a lonely Hunter’ marries Bossa nova and spooky Theremin with a filtered vocal that explodes into a bel canto tenor in a finale worthy of a 1970′s movie montage. “The New Lords” proclaims, “the fogs of Locustland make ashtrays of decent men” over a speedy jazz waltz with pointillistic brass and firestorm piano. “Arsenic and Absinthe” is the album at it’s starkest, with Ferrara’s vocals way up front in the mix over a track that is equal parts Henry Mancini and David Lynch. Ferrara’s take on Morrissey’s “Dial-a-Cliche” features controlled phrasing over an arrangement reminiscent of miles Davis’s ‘Sketches of Spain” while Tom Waits’ “All the world is Green” assumes a Mediterranean flavor with vocals channeling the spirit of a Neapolitan street singer. With these two songs in particular Ferrara’s has managed to do what so few of his finger snapping, cheeky contemporaries have, to carry on the tradition of interpretive vocalizing by showcasing contemporary songs and interpreting them with an approach devoid of kitsch, or even worse, irony. He has also avoided muddying the waters by not taking liberties with anything that can be construed as “Rat Packy” or of the “Neo-Swing.” Mr. Ferrara, it would appear, is not in the nostalgia business. Of the albums four non-original tracks only two can even be remotely considered standards and as with the others, the arrangements and vocals stray far from the realm of parody. “Night Song” from the Broadway show Golden Boy is more Brian Wilson than Bernstein and “The Big Hurt” is a sci-fi samba with an ethereal Morricone choir. In a musical landscape that is replete with drum and guitar duos, laptop artists, lofi singer songwriters and an overall penchant for minimalism, it is refreshing to hear an ambitious take on pop music that for a lack of a better word is maximal, and makes no apologies for being so. Indeed, while most of what we hear today is are sparse musically, like a box of macaroni and cheese (the four-for-a-dollar kind), “The Tiger Walks Through My Dreams is like three or four Thanksgiving meals in one day. Pull yourself up to the table and dig in, I say.