Justin Time JTR 8569-2 (www.justin-time.com)
Toronto teems with jazz vocalists, but few, if any, are as faithful to the genre’s early years as “Canada’s Sweetheart of Swing” Alex Pangman. Reminiscent of Connee Boswell, Mildred Bailey and the youthful recordings of Fitzgerald and O’Day, smooth-voiced Pangman has carved out her niche by charming listeners the old-fashioned way. Beginning with a jubilant take on the seldom-sung I Found a New Baby, this, her fifth recording, is devoted to songs made popular in 1933.
In her ongoing quest to uncover hidden American songbook gems, some of the album’s best cuts include a cheerful homage to Connee Boswell (Hummin’ to Myself), a timeless Jack Teagarden specialty (A Hundred Years from Today) and a pair of Bing Crosby rarities (Thanks and I Surrender Dear, the latter a poignant duet with Ron Sexsmith). It is Pangman’s immaculate diction, delivered ever so earnestly, that makes her an ideal candidate to rescue these titles from obscurity. That said, lyrics aside, the success of this recording owes plenty to Alex’s seven-piece band, The Alleycats. Pianist Peter Hill swings mightily as always, as does Drew Jurecka, who skilfully doubles on violin and alto saxophone; both Hill and Jurecka contribute clever arrangements. Also sensational throughout are clarinettist Ross Wooldridge and trumpeter Kevin Clark. As Ella Fitzgerald would say, “this band will swing you to good health!” On that note, this is Pangman’s first recording since undergoing a double-lung transplant in 2008. A triumph!