Las Vegas Rhapsody - the Night They Invented Champagne
Theo Bleckmann, Fumio Yasuda, Kammerorchester Basel & Bernd Ruf
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Stylistically, Theo Bleckmann has not been easy to pin down. The main focus of the German-born singer turned New York City resident has been jazz, some of it post-bop and some of it avant-garde, but Bleckmann has not been afraid to throw musical curve balls at listeners, which is exactly what he does on Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne. This 2005 recording, which was arranged by Japanese pianist Fumio Yasuda, is Bleckmann's tribute to Sin City, and the art work is full of illustrations of stereotypical Vegas images such as slot machines, roulette wheels and Frank Sinatra hanging out on the Strip. But what Bleckmann and Yasuda come up with is more Manhattan than Vegas — and not Manhattan in either a Birdland/Village Vanguard way, or a Knitting Factory way. We're talking Manhattan cabaret instead of Manhattan jazz; we're talking show tunes performed as show tunes instead of show tunes transformed into improvisatory jazz vehicles. Apart from a brief performance of "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo," Las Vegas Rhapsody's biggest inspirations are Broadway and cabaret — and that Broadway/cabaret mindset prevails whether Bleckmann is turning his attention to "Chim Chim Cheree," "My Favorite Things" or Joe Lubin's doo wop -flavored "Teacher's Pet" (which was a major hit for Doris Day in 1958). Some of the songs are closely identified with Sinatra, including "You Go to My Head," "Luck Be a Lady" and "You Make Me Feel So Young," but Bleckmann never tries to emulate anyone from the Rat Pack, and those who expect Las Vegas Rhapsody to sound like a Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis, Jr. release will be disappointed. Again, Las Vegas Rhapsody salutes Sin City on Manhattan's cabaret/Broadway terms, not Vegas' terms. This 56-minute CD is unlikely to go down in history as one of Bleckmann's more essential recordings, but it's an agreeable listen and is worth checking out if one doesn't insist on hearing him perform hardcore jazz 100 percent of the time.