I'll Take Romance
How appropriate that the mistily nostalgic cover photo for I'll Take Romance, pianist Beegie Adair's latest collection of creamy standards, looks like it escaped from one of those exhaustive Time-Life compilations of vintage hits. Adair is an accomplished artist with a delicate touch that melds the muted jazz sensibility of George Shearing and the starlit sophistication of Bobby Short. Like all of her albums, though, Romance's style and spirit is more closely aligned with the middle of the 20th century than the dawn of the 21st. It's the sort of record you can imagine Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly slipping onto the hi-fi after an exhilarating evening of back-fence spying in Rear Window-jazzy enough to be considered chic yet never so bold as to be judged intrusive.
Still, as such albums go, Adair is admirably adroit at navigating the fine line that separates the natural luster of, say, early Barbara Carroll from the faux finish of the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. In what is billed as her "first orchestrated collection," Adair melds seamlessly with the Jeff Steinberg Orchestra on a dozen durable chestnuts, adding some welcome sass to Steinberg's well-polished, if conservative, arrangements. She manages, for instance, to effectively capture all the rich moodiness of "These Foolish Things" and delivers a robust "What's New" that expertly exploits the heavy-handiness of the song's inherent self-pity. Most satisfying is a gently playful "The Way You Look Tonight" that is worthy of Oscar Peterson.
Ultimately, Romance proves as satisfying as a sweet, platonic kiss-neither fiery nor passionate, but warmly satisfying nonetheless.