|Donny McCaslin, Jr.
|Hammond B3 Organ
EagleEye One review, May 2007
“Lounging Around remastered in 2006 captures the mood and ambience of a small intimate martini lounge where mesmerizing traditional jazz music plays in the background. This CD is full of tunes reflecting lost love and difficult relationships, yet always with an undercurrent of redemption and hope. Says Ron, “I choose my own material that moves me, that means something special to me, that I can relate to.” His 5th album is sure to delight his listeners for generations to come. "
Jazz Review by Donna Kimura, April 2007
"Ron Kaplan performs nine standards on Lounging Around, an album that originally had limited distribution, mostly at live performances. Recorded in 1999, the CD has been remastered and is getting its first shot at national distribution.
With his smooth, rich baritone, Kaplan croons his way through a strong set of familiar songs, including “Blues In The Night,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “Caravan,” and “Moanin.”
According to Kaplan, the album is made of up songs reflecting lost love and troubled relationships, but there’s “an undercurrent of redemption and hope always present.”
Kaplan is a throwback to singers like Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, and others who took their time with a lyric. They understood that when they had a good song, they didn?t need to add a lot of vocal theatrics. An example of this is Kaplan’s version of “Cry Me A River.” He sings it straight, and it works.
One surprise may be the inclusion of Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim’s tune “How Insensitive,” but it fits into the set and features a guest appearance by Dmitri Matheny on flugelhorn.
The CD ends with “What A Wonderful World.” There’s nothing wrong with Kaplan’s version other than it’s not Louis Armstrong’s definitive rendition. Still, give him credit for taking on the song.
It’s interesting to note that Kaplan is founder and executive director of an organization called The American Songbook Preservation Society, a group that aims to preserve and serve as an ambassador for popular standards. This should serve as a clue into the type of music that Kaplan performs.
Tracks:Blues In The Night, Cry Me A River, I Surrender Dear, How Insensitive, Just One Of Those Things, Caravan, No One Ever Tells You, Moanin’, and What A Wonderful World"
Jazz Hot review by Jean Szlamowicz, translation by Cheri Kaplan, Oct. 2006
The Velvet Crooner
"The velvet crooner has reedited a good album and reconfirmed what we thought: it's soft but not boring, and the elegant power of his seemingly casual phrasing is in fact, ultra-tight. In a varied orchestral setting (compared to his duo with pianist Weber Iago, Saloon), he lets the excellent soloists speak, notably Donny McCaslin. The repertoire would be banal if not for the arrangements and interpretation; one often forgets that the quality of interpretation is the key to the standards. Easygoing swing and a sensibility without artifice are the hallmarks of what Kaplan holds dear with a special fervor. Ron Kaplan is an original personality in the world of jazz vocalists and he has managed to put his name into that previously closed inner circle. He has breathed new life into it by the sheer force of his style, for as you know, 'the style is the man himself'. A warm and sincere album, perfectly seductive."
Radiophone review by George Politopoulos, Oct. 2006
""In jazz we trust" is the motto convincingly asserted by its singer and researcher In this album he seems to be consistent with the atmosphere of the 50's. The material may be described as retro but still unfolds as music with intense intrinsic rhythm and atmosphere. The singer's touch on it is clear-cut, his articulation is distinct and his timbre mature. The musicians accompanying him render very successfully the dynamics of the compositions. This man from California is worth paying attention to."
Entertainment news review, Oct. 2006
"“Lounging Around” CD is a collection of 9 Jazz Standards. “Blues In The Night”, “Cry Me A River” and “I Surrender Dear” are just the tip of the iceberg. Ron is one of today’s finest singers following in the steps of Sinatra and Tony Bennett. You really need to hear him in person. If you can’t, at least buy this CD at: www.ronkaplan.com."
All About Jazz review by Jim Santella, Sep. 2006
"Recorded in 1999, this program features the velvety smooth baritone voice of Ron Kaplan singing timeless standards that have weathered changes in music and technology, and that we've all come to love. For Lounging Around he works with a small ensemble to emulate the unique Rat Pack ambience that has affected millions. How can we ever forget? Standards like "Just One of Those Things," "Caravan" and "Blues in the Night" recall the happy times when the lounges of Las Vegas and Reno were filled wall to wall with similar interpretations.
While Kaplan's rich voice fills the studio's sound room with full force and the session's balance remains well proportioned, the performance rests too comfortably on its walking stick. As if made just for the wee small hours of the morning, the program emphasizes its relaxed mood and undercurrents of shadow. While guitarist Larry Scala unveils several instances of vibrant blues emotion, the session keeps most of it under wraps.
As if to break the mold, trumpeter Dmitri Matheny and Scala work creative solos on "How Insensitive" that wake up the room. A similar situation erupts on "Caravan," as Scala and saxophonist Donny McCaslin season the timeless standard with exotic spices.
Kaplan is based in Santa Cruz, California, where he's able to work with a wide array of jazz professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area. The area brings musicians together like family, and the music grows from their unity. The proof on Lounging Around hangs tight on the bootstraps of professionals like Larry Scala, Donny McCaslin and organist Steve Czarnecki. "Moanin'," a soulful Bobby Timmons classic that's spanned generations, brings them together for one of the session's high points.
Kaplan brings a rich voice to the session; however, the mood remains, for the most part, aligned indelibly with a laid-back lounge setting."
Space Junkies magazine review by Wednesday Elektra, Sep. 2006
"According to the back sleeve of this album, the music on this disc was originally recorded in 1999 but remastered in 2006. RON KAPLAN provides music listeners with classic style jazz playing and singing. It's soft and airy, with a very moody atmosphere. I'm not a big fan of jazz music, but this disc has a place in my heart and surely many music critics of the more mature and sophisticated sense will thoroughly enjoy this release."
Accent on Tampa bay magazine review, Sep. 2006
"Lounging Around captures the mood and ambience of a small, hot jazz combo at an intimate lounge in any city, USA. Ron Kaplan's newest release features a full band of talented jazz musicians who serve up the perfect backdrop for Kaplan's rich, warm voice. "
O's Place Jazz Newsletter review by D. Oscar Groomes, August, 2006
"Ron places his baritone vocals onto nine
newly arranged jazz classics. He includes blues like "Moanin' "
and "Cry Me A River", plus a wealth of standards.
There is a strong contribution from guitarist Larry Scala who forms
a tight rhythm section with Guiseppe Merolla (d) and Perry Thoorsel (b).
Donny McCaslin Jr. adds tenor sax and Steve Czarnecki mans the
Hammond B3 to add variety and spice. Among the best of the rest
are "How Insensitive" and "No One Ever Tells You"."
Midwest Record review, July 2006
Kaplan goes into his back catalog to remoter and retool an earlier album to great effect. One of the best under the radar jazz singers around today, he does a bang up job on basic classics like "Blues in the Night", "Cry Me a River", "Moaning" and "What a Wonderful World". You can't do these songs wrong unless you make that extra effort to screw up or have no talent, but it takes that something extra to give these tunes that something extra. A nicely mature work from a guy that loves his job.
MusicWatch review, Aug. 2006
This is the second Ron Kaplan album received here and it acts as a companion to Saloon.
Once again we have an exemplary selection of songs from the Great American Songbook performed with a small jazz band in an intimate setting. Kaplan has one of those warm as treacle voices which can take any one of these nine songs make it seem like a direct communication to you.
Some of the highlights include Cry Me A River, Just One Of Those Things, Caravan, What A Wonderful World and I Surrender Dear, but there are no bad tracks here. Ably backed by Larry Scalar on guitar, Giuseppe Morella on drums and Perry Thorsell on bass (plus guests on some of the tracks), this is a leisurely paced album suited to chilling out with a glass of wine or beer, preferably with the lover of choice snuggling in your arms.
eJazzNews review, July 2006
The rich baritone of Ron Kaplan sings 9 great tunes by some of the
premiere composers in jazz history.
"Blues In The Night" Johnny Mercer's tune is sung with due deference to
Mercer's intent. Steve Czarnecki at the B3 swings it gracefully.
Kaplan is at his finest on this number.
"Just One Of Those Things" A bright tempo gets this song off the ground
in a hurry, and when you add a fine vocal and Donny McCaslin's soulful
tenor solo, you have the makings of a hip musical missive. Super
phrasing by Kaplan caps off a fine tune.
Ron Kaplan does a magnificent job bringing to life some beautiful
compositions, and he does it with style and panache. 5 Stars.
Amazon.com review by Sandi Porter (Colorado), Aug. 2006
Singer Ron Kaplan Delves Into the Great American Songbook on his Lounging Around album
"For the past 50 years, a lot of people have loved the sound of a guy singing classic jazz standards - singers like Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Perry Como and, of course, Sinatra. There are a few modern-day singers carrying the torch forward and one of them is Ron Kaplan.
One of his best albums is LOUNGING AROUND with backing by a hot jazz combo -- guitar, bass, saxophone, drums, Hammond B3 organ and flugelhorn - the perfect backdrop for Ron's rich, warm vocals.
The recording, as the title implies, captures the mood and ambience of a small jazz group as if they were mesmerizing a martini-sipping crowd at an intimate lounge. Although recorded in the studio, the feeling of the album is as if they were performing in your living room for you and a few friends.
LOUNGING AROUND is full of tunes reflecting lost love and relationships that don't work, but with an undercurrent of redemption and hope always present, which is especially reflected in the closing piece, "What a Wonderful World." There are several ballads, blues numbers ("Blues in the Night" and "No One Ever Tells You"), a Brazilian melody by Antonio Carlos Jobim ("How Insensitive"), Cole Porter's uptempo "Just One of Those Things," the Lambert Hendricks & Ross self-pity wallow "Moanin'," and jazz perennials such as Duke Ellington's "Caravan."
Kaplan has superb command of his flexible baritone that lets the listener immediately know Ron believes in what he is singing about. If you want to set the mood of a band and singer on stage at a dark, quiet downtown lounge where the crowd gathers to sip a few drinks and hear some mellow and tasteful sounds, put on Ron Kaplan's Lounging Around."
Jazz News review, Aug. 2006
"Ron Kaplan Explores Martiniville With 'Lounging Around' CD
One of today's finest singers of jazz standards, Ron Kaplan has carved out an exemplary career over the course of five albums by following in the footsteps left by legends such as Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. One of Kaplan's best albums, Lounging Around, captures the mood and ambience of a small, hot jazz combo as if they were mesmerizing a martini-sipping crowd at an intimate lounge in any city, U.S.A.
Although recorded before his last album, Saloon, the Lounging Around CD had limited distribution (mostly sold at concerts) when originally released and it eventually went out of print. Now remixed, remastered and substantially restructured, Lounging Around is receiving its first national distribution and full marketing campaign.
Ron Kaplan's Lounging Around and his other CDs are available at online sites (such as cdbaby.com, towerrecords.com), digital download locations (including iTunes.com, rhapsody.com) and Kaplan's own ronkaplan.com.
Lounging Around features a full band of talented jazz musicians who went into the studio and served up the perfect backdrop for Kaplan's rich, warm voice that is as tasteful as a fine wine, a bold and hearty vintage aged to smoothness like decades-old cabernet. The bandmembers featured throughout are Larry Scala on guitar, Perry Thoorsell on bass and Guiseppe Merolla on drums. Special guests are Donny McCaslin Jr. (who has played on two other Kaplan recordings) on tenor saxophone on five tunes, Steve Czarnecki on Hammond B3 organ on three tracks, and Dmitri Matheny (a protege of Art Farmer) on flugelhorn on "How Insensitive." The musicians work well together (Scala and Thoorsell have played together for years) and each gets the chance to solo at some point. Kaplan was performing at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival when Scala approached the singer about playing together and soon they did some gigs around Northern California.
According to Kaplan, "Lounging Around is full of tunes reflecting lost love and relationships that don't work, but with an undercurrent of redemption and hope always present, which is especially reflected in the closing piece, 'What a Wonderful World'. The whole album has a blue feel to it. Searching for love, finding love and often losing love affects us all so strongly. These are feelings that resonate with virtually everyone."
Even though the songs would all be considered traditional jazz, the selections are quite diverse. There are several ballads, blues numbers ("Blues in the Night" and "No One Ever Tells You"), a Brazilian melody by Antonio Carlos Jobim ("How Insensitive"), Cole Porter's uptempo "Just One of Those Things, " the Lambert Hendricks & Ross self-pity wallow "Moanin', " and jazz perennials such as Duke Ellington's "Caravan." Kaplan is not afraid to perform songs which are strongly associated with other performers, especially "What a Wonderful World, " made famous by Louis Armstrong.
"Of course I have been influenced by the great male jazz singers, but many people are surprised when I tell them I have been equally inspired by female singers. Women seem especially adept at digging up great repertoire. Julie London was a big influence. On this album I do Arthur Hamilton's 'Cry Me a River' that was made famous by Peggy Lee in the Fifties, but I especially loved Julie's version of it which had simple backing and really let her voice come through. On this CD I also sing 'I Surrender Dear' which I first fell in love with when I heard it on a Julie London album."
Ron has superb command of his flexible baritone that literally cocoons the listener within the cozy atmosphere of images he sings about and obviously believes in. His trademarks are his sophisticated phrasing and the mature tonal qualities of his vocals.
In addition to his career as a concert performer and recording artist, Kaplan also is the founder and executive director of The American Songbook Preservation Society, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is: "To preserve our cultural treasure known as the Great American Songbook by performing this music at home and abroad as Ambassadors of Song." For more information, go to greatamericansongbook.org. "The Great American Songbook is full of what is known as popular standards -- great songs written generally between 1920 and 1960, most often for Broadway shows or Hollywood musical films, but sometimes simply in the Tin Pan Alley tradition of pianists and lyricists working together to create quality material for the big bands or the pop singers of the day."
In the past few years Kaplan has performed in Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. He has made television appearances on "Musician's Weekly" and "BETonJazz." He has played with musicians such as pianists Shelly Berg, Smith Dobson, Geoff Eales, Tom Garvin, Mark Levine, Dick Whittington and Jessica Williams; bassists Art Davis, Stan Poplin and Tom Warrington; horn-players Paul Contos, Ted Curson, Kenny Stahl, Dmitri Matheny and Donny McCaslin Jr.; and drummers Dan Brubeck, Donald Dean, Tootie Heath, Peppe Merolla and Matt Wilson.
Kaplan's other albums are High Standards (with piano, bass and drums as well as two sax players), Dedicated (featuring piano and three saxophones as well as flugelhorn, flute and some strings), Jazz Ambassadors (piano, bass and drums), and Saloon (Ron's voice showcased with only Brazilian Weber Iago's piano).
Kaplan was born in Hollywood and was immediately surrounded by music. His father played trumpet in jazz-bands in the Fifties and his mother had the radio or record player on constantly. From his toddler-days onward, Kaplan's parents indoctrinated him with the great singers of 1950s. His earliest influences were Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis Jr., and Louis Armstrong among others. Ron played drums and percussion at school. In junior and senior high schools he sang in musical stage productions, did standup comedy at talent shows and his uncle's bar, and competed in speech tournaments ("sometimes it was extemporaneous speaking which is sort of like jazz soloing"). Ron studied in an actor's workshop in Hollywood, and then went to Los Angeles' Valley College where he got his Associate in Arts degree. He taught himself to play guitar and piano, and started writing songs influenced by Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Cat Stevens. Ron also performed original material professionally accompanied by a viola player. In addition, Kaplan learned to play congas at Venice Beach and later played in drum circles every Sunday for a number of years in Griffith Park. Kaplan moved north to attend the University of California at Santa Cruz where he majored in psychology and received his Bachelor of Arts degree.
From 1985 to 1995, Kaplan decided to immerse himself in instrumental jazz and began listening to classic material from 1950 to 1964 - Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter and countless others. About a decade ago Kaplan turned to his first love, those songbook standards, and began his recording career with a style reminiscent of those great jazz vocalists he first heard as a child. Kaplan was mentored by pianist Smith Dobson and performed every Tuesday night for several years with him. Kaplan also has frequently sung for the past ten years with Don McCaslin, Sr. and his two groups, Warmth and The Jazz Geezers.
"When you are working within any musical genre, the most difficult thing is to find your own voice," explains Kaplan. "I have had to purposely avoid Sinatra's phrasing, for example, to force myself to develop my own style. The other key is that I choose material that moves me, that means something special to me, that I can relate to. That way I can get to the heart of the song and truly inhabit it. I am deeply committed to performing these great standards and doing what I can to keep this music alive and viable for new generations of listeners."