Quietly There by the great Johnny Mandel is an immediate example. Underneath Danny’s great delivery is a beautiful piano by Bill O’Connell and the other rhythm players like Kenny Davis on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. I’ve been a fan of Drummond’s for a long time and his exquisite work with Danny Barrett is one more jewel in his crown. And these great players wait for the interludes to let it rip. No one gets in each other’s lane. That remains true into the next track and, indeed, all the way through the album. Dave Valentin’s flute is an excellent addition.
Danny’s cool baritone is excitingly unique, as I said before, don’t bother with comparisons. The fact that I want to sing along is amazing enough for me.
Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You is the Jack Segal classic and O’Connell tears it up along with Davis and Drummond, and Daniel Sadownick on percussion. The horn section of Joe Mangarelli (trumpet) and Jerry Weldon (tenor sax) are on fire but Danny keeps his coolness. It is a yin-yang view of unchangeableness in love. It is fire and ice, order and chaos, darkness and light that buffets our love but Danny lets us know that love can remain unaltered by circumstances.
The George and Ira Gershwin standard Isn’t It a Pity is so melancholic in its lament of late love. Joe Mangarelli’s sweet flugelhorn is just the right touch at just the right time. Danny’s delivery speaks of “Glad you’re here, just wish I’d found you so much sooner.” The song is a personal favorite of mine, speaking as a man who didn’t meet the love of his life until late. The lines that get me are
My nights were sour
Spent with Schopenhauer
And while Schopenhauer is enough to turn any night sour on its own, to think that I could have been with the love of my life makes Schopenhauer even more sour. Sonnets would have better than syllogisms.
Irving Berlin’s They Say That Falling in Love is Wonderful is itself wonderful. Paul Meyers who was also on the first two tracks gets a sweet solo on this piece. He introduces the stylish and warm piano of O’Connell who, in turn, gives way to Valentin’s flute. The guitar and flute contribute to the wistfulness of the song in breezy, dreamy ways and Danny closes the song out with his own shrug of the shoulders. Outstanding.
I got to know Danny some time ago and it seemed that our conversations were as much about baseball as about music. Danny is a baseball man, start to finish. His kindness shows through in his sympathy expressed to me when my Baltimore Orioles lose.
So, Baseball Interlude has a special place in my heart because it shows the Danny that I have come to know. Especially when he sings from Take Me Out to the Ball Game and slowly intones “I don’t care if I never get back…” Danny sings it like he means it.
First, let’s set one thing straight. Danny sings the correct lyric and I didn’t expect any less. Some people erroneously sing, “I don’t care if I ever get back.” But Danny nails the line and he does it with the full feeling that he really doesn’t care if he never gets back “from the old ball game.” Next, he doesn’t sing out the line to the end. That is perfect because it leaves the hearer imagining the languid summer fun at the ball park and just wanting to stay forever. It makes me want to catch a ball game with Danny, someday.
Then Kenny Davis’ bass changes it up (pitch metaphor, get it?). He introduces us to the narration of James Randolph who gives a brisk and passionate account of one of baseball greatest ever. He begins with “He was born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia…” As soon as I heard it, I breather, “Ah, Jackie…” He was telling the story, of course, of Jackie Robinson. And he told it well. The story of Jackie is the story of baseball—overcoming odds and adversities, the long struggle of the longest season in sports, the most difficult things (“Hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely is the hardest thing in all of sports,” said Ted Williams), and keeping your cool when things get hot is the toughest thing of all. And Jackie did it all. The story of Jackie is the story of life and love, if you have an understanding heart. Danny Barrett understands.
He then returns to Take Me Out to the Ball Game. He sings it in its completeness. Beautifully, with Davis bowing the bass.
Sammy Cahn’s I Cover the Waterfront follows. He introduces the piece with a slow vocal before being joined by Enrico Granafei’s harmonica and Brian Murphy on vibes along with Meyers’ guitar. All the while, the piano-bass-drums lay down the meaningful rhythm section. Gorgeous stuff.
How Am I to Know kicks off with the terrific tumbling of Drummond’s drum work. The rhythm and horn sections hop aboard tightly and Danny gets in with the best of it. The trading between horns is great fun as the rhythm section keeps it swinging. Bill O’Connell is the arranger for the material on the album and he proves Dave Valentin’s point of “I never heard him take a bad solo.” Danny couldn’t have asked for a better band for this material. And then he adds his own magic to the mystery.
Blue Gardenia is a bluesy mover. Again, O’Connell, Davis, and Drummond create an intriguing and lush background for Danny’s evocative vocals. This is slow-dancing music here. I didn’t want it to end.
Indian Summer the album ends with a three-part medley, You’re My Everything/It Might As Well Be Spring/Indian Summer. O’Connell and Davis bounce the background with Drummond’s brushwork before being joined by Weldon’s tenor saxophone. O’Connell again offers up the flawless piano solo. Then into the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard It Might As Well Be Spring. Valentin joins the Latin-rhythmic treatment for a raucous interlude before fading seamlessly into Indian Summer with O’Connell-Davis-Drummond carrying the day with accompaniment form Murphy’s vibes. Weldon’s sax joins Murphy and the rhythm section before the close-out. Danny’s voice fades away and the sustained piano takes us out.
Indian Summer is a complete-game performance by a guy with complete command of the plate. Danny Barrett chooses the right set list, the right musicians, the right intonations, the right time to give us something that will remain. It deserves a cherished spot on anyone’s permanent playlist.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl