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Beegie Adair: Sentimental Journey

Beegie Adair

Sentimental Journey is a trio date with Beegie Adair’s longtime sidemen, bassist Roger Spencer and drummer Chris Brown. Quiet Romance is a solo-piano session. Like all of Adair’s recent releases, they are concept albums. Their respective concepts are “classic gems of the World War II era…saluting the Greatest Generation” and “romantic standards.”

Adair’s versions of the 24 vintage songs on these two recordings are mostly devoid of the qualities required to hold the attention of a jazz audience. Her interpretations (and that is a generous term) are concise, symmetrical, generic and blandly impersonal. The problem is not that she stays so close to the melodies but that she fails to shed new light on them. The problem is not that she doesn’t swing-she does. She makes “String of Pearls” really move. But the swing of Adair (and Spencer and Brown) is settled and predictable. “When I Fall in Love” and “My Foolish Heart” evoke unavoidable comparisons to Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans-and make Adair sound like high-quality Muzak.

It may be unfair to apply stringent jazz criteria to these two albums. Adair’s last two record labels, Hillsboro and Village Square, have been managed by Greg Howard. Who has said that he wants to “make music that is accessible to everyone, not just jazz purists…music that anyone can…understand.” From this perspective, Adair’s inoffensive, full-bodied, lightly swinging versions of well-loved songs may indeed serve to attract new listeners to jazz, some of whom will hopefully stick around when the music is further developed by others into genuinely challenging creativity.

One complaint that is not unfair has to do with the sonic quality of these two albums. In the new century, there is no excuse for making a piano and a drum kit sound like they were recorded with microphones wrapped in gauze.

Originally Published