|Gypsy & Reno|
Sultry, Jazzy, Romantic
Right off the bat we can tell that Reno has a slightly different M.O. to these standards. "Cry Me A River," although driven by the original song, is awash with reverb-laden vocals and subtle keyboard layers that only aid the spooky feel of the songs. This is a trend that continues throughout the record. We also get our first taste of Gypsy's passionate and smokey vocals. She immediately shows that she can sing this type of material effectively. Doing nearly all the music himself, Reno shows his capabilities on songs like Kris Kristofferson's modern standard, "For The Good Times." The keyboard arrangements are quite full and are buoyed by his stalwart piano playing. The use of some vocal effect on Gypsy's voice brings an otherworldly feel to the words and helps them find a comfortable and balanced place in the mix. Reno's slight backing falls in at just the right places and is unobtrusive. Gypsy brings a smokey interpretation to Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady." Her swanky delivery flows well with Reno's lush piano treatment. Guest saxman Duke Muka adds a "cool jazz" style lead line to the proceedings, blending seamlessly with Reno's piano. Gypsy pours on the emotion for "You Go To My Head," actually using her voice and the reverb to infer a light-headed feel. Again, Reno creates a lush background for her vocals. Muka also re-appears to bring another captivating sax track. The album closer, "As Time Goes By," brings in another guest, Rock Bottom, to add a bit of haunting harmonica. The harmonica is mixed into the background and washed with reverb, just like Gypsy's voice. The effect is indeed haunting and beautiful. Reno also places a few different tricks and effects throughout the tune to aid the haunting nature (like thunder sounds and chimes.) I've never heard such a haunting rendition of this standard. Of course, a record of this sort of material would be incomplete without a Gershwin tune, and "Embraceable You" get the honors. For this tune, Gypsy deepens the voice and gives another impassioned reading. Reno changes up the rhythm at times, bringing slightly more life to the drums than the original. "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" is about the only mis-step with its too synthesized sounding drum track and accompaniment. Gypsy's vocal is fine, but this tune just doesn't really come together properly.
Although not the greatest purveyors of this sort of nostalgia, Gypsy and Reno do a fine job representing these tunes as they see them. It is also interesting to hear how the D.I.Y. ethic has expanded from its punk roots to this form of older popular music. It's a fine starting effort for a small label and a band that would be more than suitable for your next wedding or bar mitzvah.
Tom Topkoff Fallout Magazine
Gypsy & Reno, Journey to the Heart, Remember... When?
Nova / Quantum Records
By Barney Quick
A reviewer has to be careful in making observations and dispensing advice in the case of an act like Gypsy & Reno. It is supremely heartening to see people valuing great jazz, pop and blues standards enough to choose eleven first-rate tunes and give them the nuance and sparkle they deserve. It's tempting to leave well enough alone. In this jaded age of veneer, exultation of camp and narcissistic indulgence in attitude, one hesitates to tell a duo with obvious chops and taste to give more consideration to image.
Still, this vocalist (Gypsy Eden) and keyboardist-arranger (Reno LaGrande) based in Tampa, Florida have a musical orientation that cries out for another layer of . . . something. This music is as atmospheric as it gets, but the packaging, including the CD cover and the promotional materials, verily shouts "dispensable lounge act." What's needed is some graphics and an album title commensurate with what Gypsy & Reno are really up to.
What they are up to is continuing the tradition that includes the straightforward crooners like Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Harry Connick, but is big enough to include the likes of Tom Waits, Bette Midler, Linda Ronstadt (during her Nelson Riddle period) and Dr. John. I'm not talking about riding the current wave of pseudo-big bands that sloppily mixes jump blues with swing in some kind of indiscriminate rite of nostalgia. I mean showing your audience that you understand how rich the moods evoked by these songs can be.
Gypsy Eden's voice does that. She drenches the lyrics to "Cry Me A River" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" in delirious longing. On "Sophisticated Lady," she slyly shows the downside to the high life with her world-weary moan.
Reno LaGrande's piano voicings provide a unique take on each song without sacrificing familiarity. He takes a simple song like "For The Good Times" and keeps each measure interesting with colorful passing chords.
I belabor the point about presentation because Gypsy & Reno are not only good, they're unique. They deserve to be appreciated for that; it's of more lasting value than a full tip jar.