The New Standards are one snappily dressed jazz trio with a lot of guts and a sly sense of humor. Let’s face it, you have to have both in order to even contemplate taking signature songs from the likes of the Velvet Underground (“Rock and Roll”), Elvis Costello (“Watching the Detectives”) and the Clash (“London Calling”) and arranging them into quirky, minimalist swing tunes. That the Minneapolis-based group’s second album, Rock and Roll, works—for the most part—is down to the consummate musicianship displayed throughout by John Munson on stand-up bass, pianist Chan Poling, who share vocals that are overall respectful of the originals yet uninspired, and Steve Roehm on vibraphone. There are moments, mainly on the aforementioned numbers, when you wish things would get edgy and rock out a bit more—although the middle section of “London Calling” is a tripping, improvisational lounge-jazz delight. But when the trio focus on smoother pop-orientated material, especially their brooding, faintly eastern-influenced take of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and a sublimely demented version of Britney Spears’s “Toxic”, they captivate with style, wit and imagination.
// Notes from the Road
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