By Don Heckman
Seeing Ginger Berglund and Scott Whitfield at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. Thursday night had the vibe of a Swing Era performance. Most of the big bands of the thirties and forties prominently featured singers, sometimes two or more. And among the most popular combinations was the dueting of the band’s guy and girl singer. One of the finest examples (among many) — Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberley singing “Amapola” “Green Eyes” with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
Ginger and Scott possessed some of the O’Connell/Eberly qualities, balancing balladry with Swing. But their range was far broader, embracing styles reaching beyond Swing, into bebop and the present, occasionally recalling the crisp, musically articulate duet singing of Jackie Cain and Roy Kral.
That said, however, Ginger and Scott enhanced each of their songs with an appealing musical identity of their own. Backed by pianist Corey Allen, bassist Jennifer Leitham and drummer Kendall Kay, they played three sets at Vibrato, offering a far-reaching, delightfully engaging program of prime material.
Among the highlights: “Euphoria,” from the Jackie and Roy songbook with the Charlie Ventura band; a few of the whimsical tunes by Fran Landesman and/or Tommy Wolf, including “You Smell So Good,” “You Inspire Me” and “It Isn’t So Good I Couldn’t Get Better”; Dave Frishberg’s sardonic, “Wheelers and Dealers”; the Bergman’s “Solitary Moon”; and a jaunty romp through “How High the Moon” including the bebop paraphrase, “Ornithology.”
Add to that Ginger’s lovely ballad singing on “Darn That Dream” and “I Wish You Love” (in French). And supplement it all with Scott’s world-class jazz trombone playing between vocals, as well as his convincing, musically on-target scatting.
And the result was an utterly stimulating evening of music, imaginatively chosen and equally inventively performed by a pair of artists who brought interpretive lyricism, musical accuracy and an irresistible sense of swing to everything they touched.
Jackie Cain once described Ginger and Scott as “a new duo who provide hope and inspiration.” As always, Jackie was right on target.
Photos by Faith Frenz.