As iconic in 2014 for her timeless beauty and stage appeal as she is for her artistic versatility, Freda Payne remains among music’s and show business’ brightest shining star survivors. Her latest album, Come Back To Me Love (her first for the Artistry Music imprint) marks not only a return to the big band and stringsladen classics from her mid-`60s beginnings with Impulse! but also marks a return to her hometown of Detroit. That makes this 14-song album featuring Grammy® award-winner Bill Cunliffe’s musical arrangements—from the vibes-kissed Kenny Rankin waltz “Haven’t We Met” to the lonely evening fireplace musings of “Lately”—a beautiful homecoming.
Beatles fans love to explain that the key to the successful partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney was their contrasting songwriting personalities – Lennon was the tongue in cheek sardonic wit, McCartney the earnest balladeer. On John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, a sharply conceived tribute which sets the duo's classics in a jazz trio with big-band arrangements, the singer/guitarist hits the mark more often when he's taking on the Lennon persona. He approaches "Cant' Buy Me Love," "When I'm 64," and "Get Back" with a playful wink, jumping off his speedy melody lines and the rising brass sections for extended improvisational tradeoffs with pianist Ray Kennedy, and adding colorful touches like scatting and even ad libbing his own lyrical verses based on the originals. Likewise, he attacks the all-instrumental "Eleanor Rigby" with a jumpy, swinging aggression. Pizzarelli, however, becomes overly schmaltzy in presenting ballads like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Long and Winding Road" too seriously, with maudlin, straightforward arrangements that grind the party to a halt. The one exception is the more percussive "Oh Darling," where his intense vocal helps the tune rise above the hotel lounge mentality.