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Beegie Adair: Days of Wine and Roses

The Olde Pink House is nestled in a quiet corner of Savannah, about a half-mile from the fabled Mercer House (now more famous as the setting for the murderous high jinks that ignited John Berendt’s Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil than as Johnny Mercer’s ancestral mansion). Upstairs at the Pink it’s all starched linen, gleaming silver and Southern haute cuisine. Downstairs is the wood-lined piano bar (aka Planter’s Tavern); a boisterous hail-fellow-well-met spot where tinkling standards from the baby grand are granted genuine respect and attention. Looking like it hasn’t changed a whit in half in a century, it’s precisely the sort of place where pianist Beegie Adair’s latest collection of smoothly polished chestnuts, a 13-track homage to Mercer, would go down as easily as bonded bourbon.

In the liner notes, Adair enthuses that she’s “honored to be recording some of his wonderful music at last.” True enough. Mercer did write the music for two of the tunes included here, “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Dream.” But Mercer, as a seasoned hand like Adair must surely know, was first and foremost a lyricist. Truthfully, then, this is a tribute to music by Harold Arlen, Henry Mancini, David Raskin, Hoagy Carmichael and Victor Schertzinger that was enriched by Mercer’s impeccable words. So minor a quibble aside, Days of Wine and Roses is another lovely addition to Adair’s easygoing oeuvre.

Working in the comfortably familiar company of longtime associates Roger Spencer (on bass) and Chris Brown (on drums) and gently navigating the sometimes tricky curves of such Mercer-associated gems as “Laura,” “Skylark,” “Blues In the Night” and “I Remember You,” Adair is like the jazz equivalent of the Queen Mary 2: solid and safe, yet welcoming and luxurious. She’ll never be as boldly daring as such adventurous captains of uncharted jazz waters as Brad Mehldau or Bill Charlap; nor, one suspects, would she ever want to be. Instead, echoing George Shearing, Andre Previn and Jimmy Jones (all of whom Adair has cited as personal heroes), she continues to add muted sparkle to any cocktail hour.

Originally Published