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Waverly Seven: Yo! Bobby

If Kevin Spacey’s character in 2004’s Beyond the Sea can be believed, Bobby Darin was always pushing himself toward a higher artistic level. Not satisfied with conquering the teenybopper market, he became a crooner and later a folk singer. The new-millennium young lions in Waverly Seven pay homage to Darin in a two-disc set of songs he performed throughout his career. The group houses several creative soloists, but many of the arrangements don’t echo Darin’s drive. Of the 24 songs on Yo! Bobby, many are standards that Darin just happened to perform (“The Good Life,” “Skylark,” “All the Way”). Others, like “Splish Splash” and “Mack the Knife,” were his signature pieces. You have to wonder why they omitted “Beyond the Sea,” “Dream Lover” or even “If I Were a Carpenter,” all of which would have come off just as well as or better than the retro swing/R&B take of “Splish Splash.”

Saxophonists Joel Frahm and Anat Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen regularly tear up the changes during their solos. Manuel Valera and Jason Linder’s acoustic piano, B3 organ and Wurlitzer combine for rich textures. And “The More I See You” recasts the ballad into an upbeat number that evokes the original Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Cohen sharing the spotlight with guest baritone saxophonist Scott Robinson. This, however, is the exception: The often dull voicings, handled predominantly by Valera, rely largely on simple unison lines with occasional counterpoint from the horns. If the album had been pared down to a single disc, maybe the results would have seemed more animated overall. As it stands, this group, which also includes bassist Barak Mori and drummer Daniel Freedman, is a strong unit in need of better charts-and album titles.

Originally Published