Cabaret singers are typically great storytellers. Jazz singers tend to be more interpretively daring, more inclined to color outside the lines. When those two worlds collide, when narrative savvy and re-imaginative élan coalesce, magic often happens. Such is the case with Steven Taetz. Don’t let the Toronto-based singer’s baby face fool you. He can be as sophisticated as Cole Porter, as sly as Blossom Dearie. Working with a who’s who of Canadian players—pianists Adrean Farrugia and the remarkable, young Ewen Farncombe, saxophonists Pat LaBarbera and Bob DeAngelis, guitarist Nathan Hiltz, and drummer Ernesto Cervini among them—Taetz serves up a heady cocktail of 10 covers and originals.
Taetz gives Sondheim’s arch “The Little Things You Do Together” a deliciously tart reading. Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” is painted less dark than usual, complete with a swinging horn section. A zippy “Orange Colored Sky” cleverly mirrors Nat Cole’s classic call-and-response version. And Taetz transforms the beer-hall boisterousness of Oliver!’s “Oom-Pah-Pah” into a whirling salute to insobriety, with Django-esque assistance from Hiltz and thunderous propulsion from Cervini.
The new pieces, written or co-written by Taetz, are equally impressive, beginning with the slithery title track, a noirish yarn of illicit temptation. Québécoise chanteuse Sonia Johnson joins him for the charming, cuddly “Meet In Montreal.” And romantic parting is examined from polar-opposite perspectives, first with the coy don’t-let-the-night-end friskiness of “Forgotten How to Say Goodbye,” featuring vocalist Tia Brazda, then with the wistfully heartbreaking “We Never Kissed Goodbye.”