Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Larry Gelb: Song for Pickles

This is an odd little project: 12 songs, six with lyrics sung by a rather arch and warbly Broadway singer (Amy Justman), all hit hard by a heavy-duty jazz quartet (Dick Oatts on reeds, Cameron Brown on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, leader Larry Gelb on piano). Many of the songs are humorous, and not only the vocals. The title track is a twitchy, funky instrumental representation of a cross-country journey (in a “puppy bus”) by Gelb’s Jack Russell Terrier. “The Cave of Mach Pelah” is a Coltrane parody (Oatts, deadpan, deep in character).

Gelb is a songwriter first (800 of them to date) and a jazz pianist second. His aspiration is to compose new additions to the Great American Songbook. Perhaps he should have brought in a strong singer and let the songs take center stage here, because he writes some really good ones. “Jesse” is a piercingly sweet, unclichéd lullaby composed on the day his daughter was born. “August in Maine” has as much romanticism as “Moonlight in Vermont” but more urbanity. Another standard-in-waiting is the suave instrumental “I’m Not Supposed to Fall in Love.” Dick Oatts, on tenor, not joking now, renders it knowingly, from the heart.

Originally Published