June 14, 2024

David Klein Quintet
My Marilyn

(Enja – 2002)
by John Barrett

From the laminated box the disc comes in to the thick illustrated booklet to the music itself – this production is a class act. Most of the tunes appeared in Marilyn Monroe films, many of which she sung herself – all presented here in a bright romantic glow. Miriam Klein has a cool, mature voice, trembling on the big words … a cross between Miss M and Billie Holiday! Listen to “Kiss”: the words seem to flutter, dwelling on each emotion. (When she says “affection”, you feel warm and fuzzy inside.) Triangles trill, Mulgrew Miller floats a few chords, and Miriam’s son David speaks out – a lusty tenor, groaning like the masters. He’s stronger than Lester, softer than Ammons … you’ve got to hear this.

Foggy brushes pour through “Incurably Romantic”, as Miriam explores the depth of her range. Husky at this pitch, the words seem to pick up more meaning; Miller comp is direct, and it sparkles. She drawls a bit on “You’d Be Surprised”, with a touch of Marilyn’s phrasing. (“When you catch him alooooone … YOOOU’D be surpriiiiiised.”) The chords are lush, the cymbals fall, and the sax crackles with the sound of love. You must get acquainted with the Kleins – once you do, they’ll seem like old friends.

Now it’s time to get cozy … as if we weren’t already. Miriam talks the lyric to “Let’s Make Love”; Ira Coleman answers each line with a groan from his bass. She says “I could COO! like a dove” – and she does. You’d call this a slow burn, and it is hot. She’s got a slight lisp on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”; it only adds to the charm. While Miriam lilts her part, David muscles his – a fast pace, a big rasp, and a whole lotta oomph. Miller trips through his solo, which is an elegant, airy construction. This track is David’s best; his mother’s as well. “Some Like It Hot” pours it on thick: the cymbals strike hard, and Mulgrew makes it bluesy. In between the squeals of the horn, she purrs: “A conflagration/ Baby, that’s what!” David works it up strong, like Turrentine; Miller pours on the block chords and it can’t get better than this. It’s the perfect tribute, honoring the performer and the subject at the same time.

In between the vocal gems are three instrumentals, where David shouts and the band does likewise. “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” has the glitter of evening, with soft notes from Mulgrew and a Pink Panther tone from Klein. Slowly it slinks … and slowly it grows. “Specialisation” comes on like Turrentine’s “Sugar” – bluesy keys, aggressive drums, and a horn that knows its business. He sounds metallic on the second chorus, pushing the notes ever harder – priceless. And a silky vibrato carries us home on “I’m Through with Love”, as Miller chimes and the smoke gently rises. If you like Marilyn or the jazz of her era, you should hear this. It’s truly a labor of love … and I think you’ll love it.

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