"Jacintha Goes to Hollywood"

(Groove Note)
Jacintha Goes to Hollywood

Review by Brad Walseth

I haven’t been able to afford to go to the movies in ages, so I have no way of knowing whether what the current state of film soundtracks is, but back in my day, the movie theme song was a big part of the experience. Malaysian-born singer Jacintha Abisheganaden (we’ll stick to Jacintha) remembers those days and has come up with an album of jazz versions of songs from films that will find you thinking "Hooray for Hollywood."

A teenaged TV talent show winner in her native Singapore, Jacintha later studied creative writing at Harvard before making a name for herself in the Far East as a singer and actress. In the '90s, she showed her lifelong love of jazz with the release of two well-regarded jazz albums, one a tribute to Ben Webster and the other to Johnny Mercer, for Groove Note Records. Se has released three more jazz albums in the last few years, including 2004’s "The Girl From Bossa Nova."

"Jacintha Goes to Hollywood" features a stellar cast of musicians, including drummer Joe Barbera, bassist Darek Oles, trumpeter Ron Stout and the ubiquitous Lary Goldings on Hammond B3 organ, piano and accordion. With compelling arrangements by pianist Iskandar Ismail and guitarist Anthony Wilson, Jacintha sings several songs from movies in a smooth melodic and refreshingly straight-forward fashion. Eschewing the vocal pyrotechnics, weird utterings and off-the-wall arrangements that sometimes mar many modern singers attempts to make their mark on or improve songs, the entire cast simply sings and plays, sings and plays well and allows the songs to speak for themselves.

Songs covered are more of the pop variety and not ones you would usually associate with jazz, but their melodicism is well-suited for the considerate treatment they are given. Lesser known tunes like, "On Days Like These" (from The Italian Job), "Easy Living" (from Chinatown) are blended with ones like the oft covered "Alfie" and "The Summer Knows" (from The Summer of 42). Others, like "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Que Será Será" are unusual choices in that they often are considered to be cheesy and utterly square, but surprisingly the listener may discover a new regard for their charm due to the serious presentation Jacintha and her band give their strong melodies.

Jacintha gives a nice and straight-forward version of "A Man and A Woman" that shows her talent for the Brazilian style, while her slowed down version of "California Dreaming" is a bit of a surprise (it’s appearance in 1995’s Chung King Express reason for its inclusion). And The Thomas Crown Affair’s "Windmills of Your Mind" is a solid centerpiece to an album of enjoyable and relaxing melodies that may cause you to dig out your old soundtrack albums and VHS tapes to catch Steve McQueen or Doris Day in Technicolor once again.

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