I loved it when Jon Anderson wrote The Friends of Mr. Cairo in 1982 and the song ended with the film flapping against the projector. Even in remakes of the genre, Jazz is always the soundtrack of the drama.
Now Lauren White releases Out of the Past; Jazz & Noir (Café Pacific Records CPCD45130) and I couldn’t be happier. Usually, the music is in the movie but now the movie is in the music. In this, her fourth album, she brings some of the most popular music from those popular films.
With her is a fine cast of hoodlums like Mitchel Forman (piano), Trey Henry (bass) and Abe Lagrimas, Jr. (drums). Other invited guests join in throughout the album. Some stick around and some get dusted after only one song. Life is tough that way.
Her intonation is perfect. I’m using the word perfect here. She has moments where she moves from sly to sultry, funny to fabulous, but always presents it with Jazz cool. A smoky cool.
The album opens with When All the Lights in the Sign Worked. The slow-walking bass introduces the piece with Andrew Carney on muted trumpet and Hitomi on tenor sax. Joe Pasquale and producer Mark Winkler wrote the piece that sets the narrative of the album. The trades of trumpet and tenor sax are the stuff of conflict. And I love conflict.
But it is Lauren who does the most to conjure the image of the settings in her own fine delivery. She sings one line—“And the radio was playing…Jazz”—to perfection. The enunciation of the word Jazz is right on it. She just nails the delivery and the imagery and wraps it all up in herself like one of those film noir women in their long, mink coats.
Yeah, she’s a sweetheart, this one, but don’t be fooled. She’ll break your heart and make you think she’s doing you a favor. And maybe she is. She sings about pushing back her “long, brown hair in a prelude to a kiss.” And you believe her.
Billie Holiday’s He’s Funny That Way was playing in the background in a critical scene of The Postman Always Rings Twice. Andrew Carney gets another chance at it and he makes good on his threats while Lauren even gives the sound and diction of Billie Holiday herself. Maybe Lauren’s a forger. One thing’s for sure, she teases that poor trumpet with no conscience.
Again (Lionel Newman/Dorcas Cochran, composers) comes from Roadhouse with Ida Lupino singing this when she encounters Cornel Wilde. The Lisa Liu String Quartet and Brass Band Eclectic Plus One add the lush and lascivious background arrangement to the number while Lauren draws you close—too close—to the flame. She sings “This will never happen again.” Sure, she’s said stuff like that before and she’ll say it again and again. Bet your old man’s teeth on that.
Mickey Spillane’s novel Kiss Me Deadly was swiped and made into a movie. Detective Mike Hammer nearly runs over the beauty in the trench coat while Nat King Cole sings I’d Rather Have the Blues. The Lisa Liu String Quartet and the Brass Band Eclectic Plus One get a reprieve and hang around for another tune. All because Bostic’s arrangement is something of real value and this gang knows how to perform.
Then there’s Lauren. If I get to listen to her, I would choose the Blues, too. She has the goods and I’m not just talking about the vocal chops. But she does have that. And pay attention to that band of hers. They are slick and their music will rob you blind.
Duke Ellington and Peggy Lee are responsible for I’m Gonna Go Fishing from Anatomy of a Murder. It was part of the instrumental score to the movie. The trio gets to throw down with each other, for sure. Forman gets in some good licks but so does Henry and Lagrimas. It’s fast, it’s funny, but don’t let it get too cute with you. Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets it.
The movie Gilda gave us Amado Mio by Fisher, Kaps and Roberts and they want it back. But Lauren brings the Lisa Liu strings back along with Andrew Synowiec on guitar to settle the score. Rita Hayworth was supposed to be singing it in Gilda and she got famous for it, even when they realized she was lip-synching the Latin tune. The fraud.
Synowiec keeps it authentic with nice work on the acoustic guitar. Makes up for the Rita Hayworth trouble. So does Lauren White’s singing. She sings “Love me forever and let forever begin tonight.” See what I mean? She breaks your heart in any language.
As if one song at a time isn’t enough, Lauren gives you the one-two hit of the Laura/The Night We Called It a Day medley. Those rascals David Raskin and Johnny Mercer wrote Laura, probably when they were in the joint together. At least, that’s the word on the street. Laura was the name of the song and the movie. Creative.
But Lauren White sure is. And when she moves on to The Night We Called It a Day (Matt Dennis and Tom Adair, composers), she is at her most beguiling…and dangerous. The song is tough. It wasn’t even supposed to be sung. Some of those moments are a bit tricky but not so much for this singer. She sings like a canary, so keep her from the cops or she’ll tell on all of us.
Jane Russell sang the next number in the movie Macao. The song is You Kill Me. Thank the lights on Broadway that she’s just kidding around. It’s a hard-swinging tune and the trio gives it the business. Good thing Lauren picked these chums as her band because they pack the heat in all the right ways. They prove it to you on this track, for sure. Lauren swings just as hard.
Haunted Heart closes the album. It’s not really a film noir piece but sometimes you just have to make things fit. And Lauren White with Kathryn Bostic on solo piano is the perfect way to call it a night. It recalls the feelings we got when we watched those movies and how we loved to tell the story. And still do.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl.