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December 2006

John Proulx
Moon and Sand
MaxJazz

If you’ve heard at all about singer-pianist John Proulx (rhymes with “true”), then you’ve surely heard he sounds a lot like the young, cherubic Chet Baker. Indeed, the specter of the pre-ravaged Baker and his intoxicating atonality is in constant evidence. But there are significant enough differences to make Proulx intriguingly unique. Where Baker’s distingue vocals always sounded strangely detached, as if he was transmitting each lyric from some strange, enchanted land, Proulx is front and center, overflowing with fresh zeal and sparkling energy. There’s a hint of the eager hipsterism of Mark Murphy circa 1955, when the future king of cool was struggling to find his groove at Decca. Add an assuredly light piano style that’s equal parts Paul Smith and Eddie Higgins, and Proulx’s prospects seem mighty bright.

Still, as expected with any debut album, there’s a rawness here that needs seasoning. For every plus (the gentle swing of his “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” the sweet bounce of his “Alice in Wonderland”, a softly samba-ized “There Is No Greater Love”) there’s a minus (pleasant but uninspired readings of “I Should Care,” “So in Love” and “East of the Sun”; and a couple of original tracks, co-written with lyricist K. Lawrence Dunham, that fail to rise above the pedestrian). But these are early days for Proulx. Moon and Sand seems strong enough career ignition to suggest that, unlike Baker, he should only get better with age.

Originally published in December 2006
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