Bobby Lewis – Just Havin Some Fun

Bobby Lewis
Just Havin Some Fun
John Barrett

The cover is silly, but don’t expect comedy. The tunes come in all flavors; the tones go from Wingy Manone to the present. It’s quite a show, with a big cast – so forget the puppet; this is some serious swinging.

We open on a slick mover, easy bass and a sparkling piano. Lewis does the old soft glow, but the star is Pat Mallinger, with strong notes and a quote of “Like Sonny”. Check Curtis Robinson and that great soft guitar – the perfect topping to a sweet confection. Next course is salsa: percussion goes wild on Dizzy’s “Tanga”. Bobby shouts and hits the ceiling; not a “Latin” tone, but you get a little sass. The trombone has rumply warmth, and wait for that conga solo. A fire builds for two minutes – and Bobby returns red hot. And that’s how you like it.

“Nalini” weeps softly, a broad flugelhorn with ’70s trappings (snaky guitars, electric keys.) Billy is gorgeous, and Mallinger locks horns in a thrilling spiral. Mood music for a rainy day. The vocal is cute: Bonnie Herman sighs “Just Friends”, and Billy answers. His is a typical “jazz” vocal, slight of technical skill but full of emotion; the arrangement is to savor.

“Jasmine” is good punchy blues, sparked by Jim Ryan’s piano. The brass responds: bright flashes of sound, and Bobby’s best moment. This is matched by “Nature Boy”, which is him and a distant tabla. Bobby is placid and airy, sounding like a conch at times. He pleads unto the night sky, and all is peace – beauty, too. And “Strange Blues” closes with a smile: an ancient shout as the boys walk to New Orleans. Lewis is brassy and bold, a sound I wish we heard more of. His exchanges are precious, especially with Chuck Hedges’ clarinet. Slow, relaxed, and loaded with power – that’s the way to finish. The album’s built to please, and mostly it does. The players stand out (especially Herman and Mallinger), and Bobby has a soft touch many will like. Many textures, many tastes – and it’s fun.

Rating: *** ½. I like “Tanga”, “Nalini”, bith vocals, “Nature Boy”, and “Strange Blues”.

Songs: Just Havin’ Some Fun; Tanga; Nalini; Just Friends; Saudade; Jasmine; Some Other Time; Lady in the Moon; The Monster and the Flower; Nature Boy; Strange Blues. Musicians: Bobby Lewis (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals) plus, on various tracks:

John Allred (trombone); Pat Mallinger (soprano, alto, and tenor saxes); Jim Ryan (keyboards); Curtis Robinson (guitar); Thomas Kini (bass); Jeff Stitely (drums, udu, tabla); Alejo Poveda (percussion); Ruben Alvarez, Geraldo de Oliveira (percussion on “Tanga”); Bonnie Herman (vocals on “Just Friends” and Some Other Time”), except:

On “Just Friends”: Larry Combs, John Yeh, Julie DeRoche, Burl Lane (clarinets); Lawrie Bloom (bass clarinet); Rob Kassinger (bass); Dick Boyell (conductor).

On “Strange Blues”: Jim Beebe (trombone); Chuck Hedges (clarinet); John Bany (bass); Paul Wertico (drums).

For more info, contact: Southport Records