name The Jaztronauts evokes vivid imagery: jazz + astronauts,
the race to space from Sputnik 1 in '57 to Apollo 11 in '69, bebop
and space pop, Les Baxter and Esquivel. Two songs on the Jaztronauts'
debut CD, Swank (Jaztrotone), carry this theme through
to its fullest. "The Theme from Spider-Man" stands out
musically and is rich with images of a childhood hero (yep, he's
got radioactive blood), while "Intermission" is a surprising
instrumental (voice, no lyrics) that is straight-up fun in that
late-'50s drive-in kinda way.
was hoping for more tracks like these, but then I also wanted
to be Jerry Lewis' Way Way Out astronaut wife, mixing cocktails
from powdered vodka. (Any band that gives a self-titled drink
recipe for vodka with Tang is alright by me.) So sipping my Tang-tini
and putting the name thing aside, I can state confidently that
the five band members and seven guests play and sing well. The
rest of the album (best described as a song collection, because
they haven't yet found a signature groove), is primarily jump
blues with nods to New Orleans horns and kickin' boogie woogie
piano. Billie Holliday's "If I Were You" is sweet with
boyish harmonies; and the band delivers a nice interpretation
of Ellington's famed "Mood Indigo."
the flip side, the five originals are sadly formulaic. Who cares
if you're "Flippin' Your Fedora" or you "Dig These
Threads"? Here's a hint: Elvis wasn't singing about his shoes.
He meant, "Hey babe, don't crowd me, I need my space."
"Side Car" and "Wolf" strive for the commonality
of crying into a cocktail or he-done-her-wrong; but they never
get deeply personal or musically distinctive. Kinda like drinking
Tang without the vodka.
Jaztronauts, back into the rocketshipwrite more songs like
"Spider-Man." Whether they're in a slow orbit or blasting
off at light-speed, gimme that sound.
the band online at www.jaztronauts.com.