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Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: When the Sun Goes Down

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Manhattan Transfer must be mightily chuffed with the Uptown Jazz Vocal Quartet. Evident throughout the UJVQ’s When the Sun Goes Down (House Kat) are the Transfer’s tight boy-girl-boy-girl harmonies, their sharp jazz instincts and, for the most part, their same good taste. Fact is, the D.C.-based quartet may be a little too derivative. On selections like “Love Walked In,” “‘Deed I Do” and Dizzy’s “He Beeped When He Should Have Bopped” it’s all but impossible to delineate the line that separates Robert McBride, Ginny Carr, Roger Reynolds and Lisanne Lyons from their Transfer counterparts. McBride and crew do, however, make attempts to break out of the Transfer mold. Their various stabs at original material are well intentioned but, again, overly imitative. Carr and McBride’s “Jazz Face” is, for example, an admirable attempt to replicate the hipster chic of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. The sound is right-there’s plenty of commendable boplicity-but the lyric can’t match the frosted sophistication of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Similarly, Carr’s “The Last Breath of Winter” is a delicate gem, but sounds too much like “Snowfall” folded into “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Yet despite various stylistic potholes, the UVJQ deserves to be heard (for proof, lend an ear to their inventive treatment of Michael Ruff’s “You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To,” refit to a sizzling Miami Sound Machine beat). Best, perhaps, to think of them as the Volkswagen to the Transfer’s Porsche or the Jeep to L, H & R’s Jaguar-not quite as sleek or stylish (nor as temperamental), but dependable, hard-working and built to last.

Originally Published