Last year’s Future Standards saw Howe Gelb crafting twinkling, roguish takes on classic US songwriting. Think Harold Arlen after a lost year being dragged around jazz-fuelled speakeasies by Dr John… without the voodoo.
Apparently Gelb’s itch wasn’t quite scratched and so we have Further Standards – a companion piece that brings us up to speed with how the songs are shaping up. The first half sees Gelb lay a few new ones on us and update Future Standards to give touring vocalist and old Giant Sand pal Lonna Kelley more prominence. Of the fresh standards, “Presumptuous” hands Kelley the spotlight for a song that musically evokes melancholy Gershwin, with Kelley’s understated vocal complementing the song beautifully. The other newie,…
…”All You Need to Know”, is one of the best things the whole project has offered – a hard-to-second-guess odd couple duet that wriggles between sounding as if it belongs in Ronnie Scotts and on the silver screen. The other “recycled” stuff on offer suggests a confidence in the material and Kelley’s presence have combined to allow Gelb to take things slower – it’s in everybody’s best interests.
The second side captures Gelb and co in concert, where the tunes really breathe. A song like Clear’s snappy swing turns into a more conversational, sauntering vogue. The sense of freedom is heightened by Gelb’s loose piano playing – a fruity vamp is usually never far away – and the juiced-up flights of delightful fancy cooked up whenever Naim Amor takes a guitar solo. Delightful stuff all round.