May 2011

Jim Caruso
Swing Set

Eleven years have passed since jazz/cabaret singer Jim Caruso teamed with pianist Billy Stritch for the delightfully campy Live and in Person, recorded at Arci’s Place in New York City. This long-overdue follow-up is a more subdued affair, yet it still captures the effervescent showmanship and deep appreciation for top-drawer material that are Caruso’s stock-in-trade.

As the title promises, there are several first-rate swingers among the 13 tracks, most notably a sparkling “I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed” propelled by Warren Vaché’s cornet; a rollicking “Gotta Be This or That” with Caruso in simpatico sync with duettist Michael Feinstein; and a “The Doodlin’ Song” with Stephanie J. Block that is also a fine showcase for Bucky Pizzarelli’s guitar artistry. Best, though, is a combustive “Avalon” that finds Caruso and Stritch swapping scat lines while Hilary Kole ignites the lyric.

Caruso also makes room for some accomplished balladeering, including a tender, dawdling “If I Only Had a Brain” and a closing “Heart’s Desire” that again places him in the sole company of the impeccably polished Stritch.

Originally published in May 2011
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