By Bobby Reed | Published August 2016
Woody Allen loves jazz. This is evidenced by several of the filmmaker’s soundtracks as well as his own work as a clarinetist. Allen’s 46th film, Café Society, is set in the 1930s and its soundtrack focuses on songs that Richard Rodgers composed with lyricist Lorenz Hart, including “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “My Romance,’ “There’s A Small Hotel” and “Have You Met Miss Jones?” The aforementioned tunes, along with five other songs, are interpreted here by Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, a band that has risen to fame by breathing new life into music from the 1920s and ’30s. (Filmmakers Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards examine the savvy bandleader’s career in their new documentary Vince Giordano: There’s A Future In The Past.) Giordano’s genius lies in his ability to arrange old warhorses like “Jeepers Creepers” and “Pick Yourself Up” in ways that not only sound fresh but that cause listeners to reevaluate iconic recordings from the past. For Giordano, this is more than merely “source material”; it is a starting point for new vistas. His success is dependent upon the exemplary musicianship of his band. The Nighthawks’ pianist, Mark Shane, offers particularly nimble, memorable work here. The band teams up with vocalist Kat Edmonson for a clever rendition of “Mountain Greenery,” with the singer delivering a grin-inducing tale of life in a home “where no pests are pesterin’.” The 15-track soundtrack includes three recordings from the Depression Era: Count Basie’s “Taxi War Dance,” singer Ben Selvin’s version of “I Only Have Eyes For You” and Benny Goodman’s take on Rodgers & Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” with vocals by Louise Tobin. All three are gems, but the sonic quality of these vintage recordings might be slightly jarring for some listeners when juxtaposed with the pristine, contemporary recordings by Giordano, YeraSon and Conal Fowkes. The latter—a pianist who has appeared on the soundtracks of previous Allen films, including Midnight In Paris—closes the program with a trio reading of “Out Of Nowhere” and a jaunty solo version of “This Can’t Be Love.” This disc is definitely a keeper.