[1 May 2007]
Let me tell you about one really freaky experience I will forever associate with Sacha Perry’s Not Brand X. Okay, I’m watching a rerun of The Golden Girls sitcom, right? (Nothing good ever comes from watching reruns). It’s the episode in which the ladies place a winning $10,000 lottery ticket in the pocket of a leather jacket that Sophia unwittingly donates to charity. At the end of their quest to retrieve the jacket, and thus the ticket, they perform a good deed by donating the ticket to a homeless shelter.
Here’s the freaky part. Right when I’m looking at the screen like, “Say what?” and “Maybe I would’ve donated some of the jackpot, but not all of it,” I press play on my stereo, already in “shuffle” mode, and guess what song plays? Track number three on Not Brand X, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Makes sense, especially when the episode title was “Brother, Can You Spare That Jacket?” Now that, as Johnny “Guitar” Watson, used to say, is a real mutha for ya.” Or, as Alicia Keys sang, “It’s called Karma, baby. And it goes around.”
Know what else goes around? Jazz standards. In this regard, Sacha Perry’s Not Brand X should appeal to jazz enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts, if for no other reason than the Brooklyn, New York pianist approaches standards, such as the aforementioned “Brother” and “Get Out of Town”, with aplomb and pizzazz. Accompanied by Phil Stewart (drums), and longtime collaborator Ari Roland (bass), Not Brand X is designed to show, as the title implies, that these pieces are far from generic. And they do, mostly, with dazzling piano work on “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” (check out that drum solo at about 3:45) and the sly playfulness of Mack David and Jerry Livingston’s theme for that “waskally wabbit” on The Bugs Bunny Hour, “This Is It”.
I’m skeptical of covers and remakes in other genres like, for instance, R&B, but not quite as skeptical about jazz standards. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with Gershwin or Porter, so I feel like I’m being educated when jazz artists interpret the classics. Or maybe jazz artists are better at standards than R&B singers are at covers. In any event, although a couple of compositions meander (“Give It Back to the Indians” and “Love”), Perry’s approach serves him well, as Not Brand X is seven tracks deep with over 50 minutes of music, and specially made to show you how it’s done.