An album of covers in smooth or contemporary jazz has the potential for boredom. But when the arrangements are distinct and the songs aren’t your typical remakes, the results can be fun and exciting. So enters the Randy Hoexter Group with Fromage (Rhombic Records, 2012).
For one thing, pianist Hoexter took on some “cheesy” pop songs, a challenge within itself. And what he and his supporting cast do with this cheese is deliciously nutritious. Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, guitarist Trey Wright, saxophonist Sam Skelton, trombonist Eric Alexander and percussionists Kit Chatham (congas, djembe and cajon) and Eric Sanders (triangle and shaker) are part of the ensemble. Drum duties are split by Tom Knight and Dave Weckl. Mike Barry and Gordon Vernick split the load on trumpet. And vocalist Angie Driscoll appears on two tracks.
Driscoll sings the chorus on the highly energetic adaptation of the sappy Debby Boone hit, “You Light Up My Life.” Instead of a sugary, romantic ballad, this arrangement is heavy on percussion, with a little soulful sass thrown in, aided by Skelton’s soprano sax solo.