December 2005

Ron Kaplan and Weber Iago
Saloon: The Ron Kaplan/Weber Iago Album
Kapland Records

Any diehard jazz-vocal fan is, I reckon, by definition also enamored of underdogs. The broad base of the jazz pyramid is populated with worthy singers, but the apex--where the Kralls, Cullums, Connicks and others with major-label support reside--is far too narrow. So it's easy to applaud those with the talent and the tenacity to sustain what is virtually guaranteed to be a rocky career ride. Consider, for instance, Ron Kaplan.

The Monterey-based singer, whose gruffly elegant style places him somewhere near the midpoint of Steve Tyrell and Mark Murphy, has spent close to a decade churning out self-produced discs on his own label. On this, his fourth outing, the consistently commendable Kaplan teams with pianist Weber Iago for a short (clocking it at just under 40 minutes) but sturdy set of nine standards highlighted by a nicely wistful "Alfie," a coolly satisfying "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and a laid-back blending of "'S Wonderful" and "I Got Rhythm." (His "Desafinado," though, could benefit from a slightly lighter, dreamier touch).

While Saloon is no match for Murphy's instinctual intensity, for a made-on-a-wing-and-a-prayer labor of love, it comes admirably close.

Originally published in December 2005

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