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The New Morty Show: Straight Ahead

Trumpeter Morty Okin isn’t shy about his influences. He’s all-Vegas, baby. We’re talking 1950s glitzy Frank-Sammy-Dino Vegas. The booze, the broads, the all-night burners. Who cares if the bandleader and his backup group-most notably girl-among-wolves chanteuse Cynthia Lewis-are from San Francisco? No matter where the group gets together for a gig, the New Morty Show heads for Sin City anyway. This is the kind of big and brassy cocktail music-all arranged by Sandy Megas of Los Angeles jazz ensemble Hip Pocket-where setting the proper drinking mood is just as important as making them get up and dance.

On their second full-length album, Straight Ahead, produced by Jeffrey Wood, the band pays homage to the pioneers of West Coast jazz (a subtle cover of Bill Holman’s “Pork Pie” features the band at its tightest). Things really get hot when Lewis steps front and center, and leads the boys by the balls on Alfred Fisher’s dreamy “Destination Moon.” And then there’s the reason why the band is named the New Morty Show: Okin doesn’t rule the roost simply because he knows every line in Ocean’s Eleven. When the vibe gets too mellow and the T&T’s start working the crowd into somnambulant fogs, the big man with the even bigger trumpet lets loose on Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico Tico” and Redd Evans’ “No Moon at All.” Now that, my friends, is a little hey-hey.

Originally Published