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Friday Night Special by Janis Siegel

In theory, Janis Siegel’s new album Friday Night Special seems like a can’t miss project: arguably the most recognizable voice in the Manhattan Transfer records an entire album with an organ/tenor group with B3 ubermensch Joey DeFrancesco manning the organ console and boss tenor man Houston Person laying down hot licks over a songlist that just swings. And maybe this album will grow on me in time, but the result is not what I had hoped.

Friday Night Special is a scattershot affair. The players are up to the task, as evidenced double-barreled score of the opening tracks, an inspired reading of Bill Withers’ "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh, Made Me Cry" that Siegel and Person absolutely tear through, and a grooving version of the Coleman-Leigh standard "My, How The Time Goes By" anchored by Person's bluesy fills and DeFrancesco's organ work. However, Joel Dorn’s production on Friday Night Special removes a lot of the grit from the material in favor of the crystalline sheen a listener expects from a Telarc disc.

The overall performances from Siegel and Joey D are also not their best moments. Siegel’s vocals, particularly on the medley "My Love Is/ My Babe" and the Eddy Arnold classic "You Don’t Know Me", veer too much into the more theatrical elements of the Transfer’s stage show. Only the best efforts of Person and guitarist Russell Malone keep "You Don't Know Me" from tumbling over a saccharine cliff. While DeFrancesco may be the current torch-bearer of the Philly organ tradition, his performance on Friday Night Special could have used some more funk, or some "organ grease" like his Columbus contemporary Tony Monaco.

Still, there are enough standout moments on Friday Night Special that will bring me back to playing the album when some Friday nights seem simply ordinary.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Janis Siegel
  • CD Title: Friday Night Special
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Telarc
  • Tracks: The Same Love That Made Me Laugh Made Me Cry, My How The Time Goes By, I Just Dropped By To Say Hello, My Love Is/My Babe, Let It Be Me, Ill Wind, You Don’t Know Me, There’s A Small Hotel, Make Me A Present Of You, Misty
  • Musicians: Janis Siegel (vocals); Joey DeFrancesco (Hammond B-3 organ); Peter Bernstein, Russell Malone (guitar); Houston Person (tenor saxophone); Buddy Williams (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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