Jonathan Poretz swaggers into our living rooms and hearts with "A Lot Of Livin’ To Do," the title and opening track from his debut album consisting of standards by some of the best songwriters in the history of American jazz music. Poretz’ presentation can be sophisticated ("Then I’ll Be Tired Of You"), sensitive ("I See Your Face Before Me"), and at other times he struts his stuff as is the case with "This Time The Dream’s On Me."
The album which has both a nostalgic ambience and a sixties vintage CD cover does not attempt to copy, but captures the very essence of the eras from which these tunes are drawn. Poretz and co-arranger Lee Bloom (Charles Mingus, Madeleine Peyroux) have not merely dusted off old standards but injected new life into these fine compositions.
The album comes off sounding as a live stage presentation was achieved primarily through having all the musicians in the studio playing while Poretz was singing versus recording each of the artists separately. The final recording for most of the songs was accomplished through one or two takes leading to a fresh sound rather than an antiseptic overproduced record.
Poretz’ vocal presentation of three-time Tony Award winner and Theater Hall of Fame composer Charles Strouse’s "A Lot of Livin’ To Do" has the right degree of cockiness and is complimented by Bloom’s lively piano chops. Harold Jones whose performance resume includes Natalie Cole, Count Basie, Hoagy Carmichael, Sarah Vaughan and B.B. King, just to name a few, adds texture with some sensitive drumming. The song also features some excellent scatting by Poretz.
The San Francisco area native sounds spookily like Frank Sinatra as he croons Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s "Come Rain Or Shine." Arlen was the author of charts such as "Over the Rainbow" and "I’ve Got The World On A String" while Mercer was one of the most prolific lyricists to put pen to paper, a fabulous singer and the co-founder of Capitol Records.
As Poretz croons, "I have often walked/Down the street before/But the pavement always/Stayed beneath my feet before/All at once am I/Several stories high/Knowing I’m on the street where you live," it is easy to envision the ladies in the audience swooning. Poretz’s reading of the Nat King Cole tune "On The Street Where You Live" (written by Fredrick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner), pulls at our heartstrings and captures the essence of a man whose sensibilities have given away to being intoxicated with love.
The flute is one of many instruments that Noel Jewkes has mastered and those talents come to the fore in "It Never Entered My Mind" as he brings an ethereal element to Bloom and Poretz’s interpretation of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song. Jewkes raises the bar he set with his own excellent musicianship when he provides us with an awe inspiring sax solo on the "My Time Of Day/I’ve Never Been In Love Before" medley.
Other fabulous songs on this disc include, Cole Porter’s "Just One Of Those Things," "How Insensitive," (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Norman Gimbel/Vinicius De Moraes) and "I’ll Remember April."
"A Lot Of Livin’ To Do," released on the Pacific Coast Jazz label is an album you should go out looking for and not merely wait to stumble across. I am not aware if Poretz or the label has plans to make any of these tunes available as single downloads but I would not recommend taking that approach if it is an option. Poretz has woven together a collection of songs that are interdependent and build a strong and romantic theme from the opening track to the closing number.