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Seth MacFarlane: In Full Swing (Republic/Verve)

Review of vocal jazz album by TV and film producer and writer who sings material from the Great American Songbook

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Cover of Seth MacFarlane album In Full Swing
Seth MacFarlane album In Full Swing

How delightfully idiosyncratic that Seth MacFarlane, who’s built a film and TV empire by trading in the most sophomoric of humor, has emerged as an old-school crooner, breezily mining Tin Pan Alley tunes with the verve of Dean Martin and the snap of Sinatra.

Given his place near the top of the Hollywood firmament, it’s understandable that MacFarlane is provided the sort of luxurious trappings few pop-jazz vocalists have enjoyed since Sinatra’s heyday. He recorded this fourth album, In Full Swing, at Abbey Road Studios with the savviest of co-producers, Joel McNeely, who also shapes punchy, brassy, string-dripping arrangements worthy of Billy May and Neal Hefti. Anchoring the 48-piece orchestra, expanded to an overwhelming 60 for one track, are such fine players as guitarist Larry Koonse, keyboardist Tom Ranier, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Peter Erskine.

Fortunately, MacFarlane proves (yet again) fully worthy of such bounty. Alongside top-tier standards from the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, Lerner and Loewe and Jimmy Van Heusen, he unearths several less precious though no less glittering baubles. Among them: the overjoyed “I Like Myself,” from It’s Always Fair Weather; the jaunty Gordon MacRae-Gisele McKenzie number “My Buick, My Love and I” (featuring Elizabeth Gillies); the pert “A Kiss or Two”; and a sparkling parry with Norah Jones on “If I Had a Talking Picture of You.” Through it all, you can’t help but be carried away by MacFarlane’s joie de vivre, like a kid in a candy store gleefully sharing his sugar-dusted treats.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album In Full Swing by Seth MacFarlane on iTunes.


Originally Published