Victor & Penny,
(Overtone, 2016)

Victor and Penny are Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane, which tells you something right there. Freling plays guitar, McGrane strums the ukelele, and they are joined by a couple of horn players and a bassist, a group they call the Loose Change Orchestra. Overall, they sound a little like the soundtrack of a Betty Boop cartoon and they call the type of music they do "prohibition jazz."

All of this would be fine is they committed themselves to old-time Kansas City jazz, but Victor & Penny want it both ways: They want to bring a modern sensibility to the hot jazz. Rather than celebrate its place in musical history and recreating that place, they want to use it ironically, to make hip comments through the music. The music, rather than call attention to itself, serves to call attention to Victor & Penny. Its biggest statement is "See how cool I am?"

It's sad. I hear the music they're playing and, since I love the jazz of that period, I want to love what Victor & Penny are doing. But in order to love it, I have to believe it. And they just won't let me do that.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 May 2016

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