Buddy & Me
2012 / Goldie Mae Records / Ritz Music
Review by Kathy Parsons
Buddy & Me is a charming collection of seven jazz standards and six original compositions arranged and performed as solo piano jazz by Beverly Ritz. (Two of the pieces are fused together as a medley, for a total of twelve tracks.) Named for one of Ritz’s many rescued cats, the cover artwork is a charming photo of Ritz playing the piano with Buddy on her lap, looking like one very contented kitty! Beverly Ritz is a pianist, composer, arranger, and music educator who lives on the central Oregon Coast. On a mission to keep beautiful music and jazz classics alive, Ms Ritz’s distinctive and elegant compositions and arrangements flow effortlessly from the heart. This is not hard-edged “acid” jazz nor is it the often colorless “smooth jazz.” Most of these pieces have a very leisurely tempo that emphasizes the melodies and gives the songs a rather dreamy mood. The combination of very familiar songs with some not-so-familiar pieces makes this a very comfortable album for both background music and more focused listening.
Buddy & Me begins with the timeless classic “Over the Rainbow.” Ritz includes the verse as well as the more familiar chorus, giving the piece a little different treatment that makes me wonder why we don’t hear the whole song more often. Smooth, gentle, and overflowing with longing it’s a beautiful beginning. Another jazz classic, “Take Five,” comes next. Ritz’s arrangement is somewhat more playful than many I’ve heard, and I really like it. “So Sorry, Phil” is the first of the original pieces. This is one of those pieces that feels like it was created very late at night when truth pours from the soul. Graceful yet very emotional, it’s a beauty. Harold Arlen’s “Blues in the Night” and Ritz’s own “Walk Away From the Blues” make for a dark and slinky medley - great stuff! “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” is a dreamy arrangement that sneaks in a little surprise in the middle - the inclusion of a few phrases of “Norwegian Wood”! An odd pairing to be sure, but it works! “Poor Mister Gray” could be subtitled “Blues for a Stray Cat” - another Ritz original. “It Might As Well Be Spring” is a lovely, melancholy ballad by Richard Rodgers. There are some wonderfully dense chords in the piece, but they are never jarring and give the melody plenty of room to sing. “Song For My Mother” is a heartfelt tribute to a much-loved parent. Slow and earthy with a gently swaying rhythm, it’s a favorite. “My Funny Valentine” is one of my favorite jazz standards, and Ritz’s arrangement is just right. This one sneaks in a little surprise at the end, too! The somewhat livelier title track appears last in this collection. The casual rhythm and easy-going melody give this piece feelings of a warm and comfortable kind of happiness, trailing off at the end.
This is a really nice album for relaxing and de-stressing. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
May 1, 2012