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The Jaztronauts
Swank

The 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.

I 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."

On 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.

Okay, Jaztronauts, back into the rocketship—write more songs like "Spider-Man." Whether they're in a slow orbit or blasting off at light-speed, gimme that sound.

-B. Todi

Visit the band online at www.jaztronauts.com.



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Year 2000 Reviews
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