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Album Review

It's a shame that songwriter Harry Warren's name is not as well known as some of his contemporaries like Cole Porter or Irving Berlin. For whatever reason, writing dozens of hit songs like "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and winning three Academy Awards wasn't enough to get the name recognition he deserved. Hoping to change that, Michael Feinstein pays tribute to the often-ignored composer on Hopeless Romantics, a collection of Warren songs performed by Feinstein and pianist George Shearing. With both musicians quite familiar with the Warren catalog, Feinstein and Shearing decided to focus their attention specifically on Warren's more romantic songs. Therefore, popular upbeat hits like "Jeepers Creepers" and "Lullaby of Broadway" were set aside in favor of softer tunes like "At Last" and "I Only Have Eyes for You." Of course, this approach is a perfect fit for Feinstein, who has crooned thousands of American standards in his subdued cabaret style. The bonus this time around, though, is to have famed jazz pianist Shearing provide the accompaniment. The pairing works fine, especially when Shearing gets to riff a little on slightly more midtempo songs like "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," but no matter how impeccable and gorgeous Shearing's work is, the album's low-key approach leaves little room for him to shine. Even one of Shearing's most famous snappy songs, "September in the Rain," is reduced to a maudlin ballad. It still works, but the magic of this pairing is something that would be more appreciated in a concert setting where each performer has room to move. As it is, working within the romantic theme and the confines of the studio provides little variety in either tone or tempo. But rising above it all are Warren's songs, and it is beneficial that Feinstein resurrects beautiful yet forgotten tunes like "Shadow Waltz." Of course, Feinstein is pitch-perfect and squeezes every ounce of good sentimentality out of each lyric, much in the way he did on his brilliant 2003 disc, Only One Life: The Songs of Jimmy Webb. This collection, however, is a little too quiet and mannered, but Feinstein and Shearing still do a great service by bringing these tunes back to the forefront. After hearing Hopeless Romantics, the name of Harry Warren should remain imbedded in the listener's memory.

Biography

Born: August 13, 1919 in London, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

For a long stretch of time in the 1950s and early '60s, George Shearing had one of the most popular jazz combos on the planet — so much so that, in the usual jazz tradition of distrusting popular success, he tended to be underappreciated. Shearing's main claim to fame was the invention of a unique quintet sound, derived from a combination of piano, vibraphone, electric guitar, bass, and drums. Within this context, Shearing would play in a style he called "locked hands," which he picked up and...
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