The provocative title of Amber Weekes’ ‘Round Midnight Re-Imagined may have you thinking that the sensual voiced veteran L.A. jazz vocalist simply has in mind regaling us with a batch of well-chosen, lushly arranged and fully swinging standards.
She definitely does that beautifully and infectiously, from her engaging, laid back, Latin spiced whirl through the title song to her snappy, downhome, ultra-bluesy and downright witty burn through Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Hazel’s Hips.” Yet Weekes has a greater artistic vision in mind as she pays homage to her late father Martin, a trombonist and club singer who emulated Frank Sinatra.
One of the more colorful aspects of her personal history is the fact that her paternal grandparents ran a famed Harlem Luncheonette where the likes of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan and Harry Belafonte hung out. The stories her family – especially her dad – told her growing up are the foundation for this ambitious 12-track collection, a remixed, remastered and re-orchestrated version of a 2002 promo recording she made for club and festival work.
Fronting producer Mark Cargill’s vibrant, exquisite string arrangements, Weekes uses a crafty mix of standard ballads, bossa and blues (penned by everyone from Sting (“Sister Moon”), Gershwin (“Summertime”) and Natalie Cole (“Lovers”) to Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer (“One For My Baby,” “The Man That Got Away”) as a foundation for some lush scene setting and colorful narrative that playfully and poignantly captures the various facets of love (flirtation, promise, joy, longing, heartache, regret, etc.) that happen in the big city.
The emotional core of this compelling project – which would translate stunningly to a stage version, hint hint – is The Bar Suite, a direct dedication to Martin which includes smoky, easy swaying spins through “Something Cool,” “One For My Baby” and “The Man That Got Away.”