The performances on Friday Night Special
fail short of achieving the goals vocalist Janis Siegel established for this recording.
" We’re calling this album Friday Night Special
because the organ and tenor saxophone sound evokes a late night, last set, soulful jazz feel, like going out on Friday night with your paycheck in your pocket," Siegel said in her press release.
Siegel, an alumnus of the Manhattan Transfer, put most of her musical experiences (jazz, funk, the blues, and R&B) on this CD. Instead of the after-hour party atmosphere that she hoped for Friday Night Special
Like Shelia Jordan and Helen Humes, Siegel’s voice is attractive and lively. Their voices had enough power to stand unaccompanied. Jordan, for example, demonstrated this on I’ve Grown Accustom To The Bass
, a duet with bassist Cameron Brown. She didn’t drown her voice with too many instrumentalists.
Conversely, Siegel didn’t trust her voice. She over-arranged The Same Love That Made Me Laugh, Made Me Cry
and My Love Is / My Babe
by crowding them with an organist, a saxophonist, a guitarist, and her background singers, the Siegelettes.
With the exception of guitarist Russell Malone, Siegel lacked camaraderie with the other musicians. She limited saxophonist Houston Person.
" Houston is a great tenor player. I have always admired his work with Etta James," Siegel said.
With Etta James, Person was stately. But with Siegel he seemed uncomfortable and bored, particularly on Let It Be
Joey De Francesco, a thunderous organist, played like his hands were shackled. Siegel hampered De Francesco innate tendency to swing. When she unshackled him on My Love is/ My Baby,
he appeared sedate.
Her background singers sound like the Andrew Sister on My How the Time Goes By
. They give it a 1940’s retro feel. Honestly, the Sieglettes’ presence on this CD was intrusive.
Unfettered Siegel became on the ballad You Don’t Know Me, and the blues number Ill Wind. Malone, Person and Siegel finally jelled. They were sparse and relaxed. While Person lingered, on Ill Wind, Siegel dug through the songs surface.
If Siegel had trusted her voice, Friday Night Special
would have been a better outing.