As I write this review, my cat Cricket is curled up in my lap. I wouldn’t mention it except that I am reviewing an album that comes with a cat calendar and whose stated mission is to create “purr-fect jazz for cats and cat lovers.”
Smile is dedicated to Gary Brunotte’s late cat Dexter, who brought him “nearly 15 years of joy, love, and smiles.” As it happens, my Cricket replaced a cat named Dexter, a magnificent 18-pound fluff-creature who, because of deep-rooted psychological problems, was with me for far fewer than 15 years.
It may take a cat person to fully comprehend the sass that Brunotte puts in the stride of “Seal-Point Strut” or the light-footed waltz whimsy of “Ditty for the Kitty” or the haughty composure of “Blue-Point Blues.” But any jazz person will appreciate Brunotte’s crisp, tasteful, witty, lyrical elaborations upon his original themes.
In the last couple of years, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” has made a comeback. Among others, Bill Mays, Mark Kramer and Brad Mehldau—twice—have recorded it recently. Brunotte’s two versions here include a rapt, husky vocal by Kirsten Lambert and an airy samba. Brunotte understands sambas like he understands cats.