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06/03/13

Alex Pangman & Bucky Pizzarelli
Have a Little Fun
Justin Time Records

For years Alex Pangman has, alongside her slick Alleycats, been indulging her predilection for tunes that predate the 36-year-old Canadian chanteuse by at least four decades. But unlike the vast majority of contemporary vocalists whose approach to such material sounds patently artificial, Pangman is startlingly authentic in her interpretations. In other words, she’s not a poseur but a peer to Ruth Etting or the great Connee Boswell, with whom she shares an intense stylistic kinship.

Two years ago, Pangman, fresh from double lung transplant surgery, shaped the sterling 33, focusing on standards that gained their first flush of popularity in 1933. For two-thirds of the tracks on Have a Little Fun she strays slightly from that date, inching back to 1926 for the Sophie Tucker showstopper “Some of These Days” and as far forward as 1939 for “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” Joining her band is 87-year-old Bucky Pizzarelli, who can claim more immediate familiarity with the vintage playlist yet performs with more vigor than most guitarists a third his age.

Terrific as it is to hear them tiptoe through “I’m Confessin’,” slink through “Shanghai Lil” or cut loose on Fats Waller’s fevered “The Panic Is On,” the biggest delight is in discovering Pangman’s eerie ability to write new songs that seem genuinely sepia-tinted. The four included here are top-flight compositions, particularly her dreamily contemplative “The Fog Song” and sly, saucy “It Feels So Good to Be So Bad.”

Originally published in May 2013
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