.In recent years, Rosemary Clooney has been recording her encounters with some classy contributors to American popular song for the Concord jazz label. After finessing her way through Duke Ellington, Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter, she now gives us "Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Harold Arlen."
Clooney isn't a jazz singer -- she's more of a wholesome, old-fashioned pop singer who takes a lyric and melody straight on, leaving the embellishment to her backing band. In this case, the band is the saving grace on an album that putters along mostly in low gear. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, cornetist Warren Vache, guitarist Ed Bickert and pianist Dave McKenna provide vivid splashes of color in the grey soundscape.
Of course, Arlen's entrancing melodies benefit from his collaborations with such lyricists as Leo Robin, Johnny Mercer, Ted Kohler and E.Y. (Yip) Harburg. The most familiar tunes here are the Arlen- Kohler classics, the mildly exuberant "Get Happy" and the torchy "Stormy Weather." But it's two languid Arlen- Harburg selections, "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" and "Let's Take the Long Way Home," that Clooney comes closest to making her own. Too often, though, she simply sings a lyric without swinging it, giving a reading without an interpretation. The one exception is the smoky confessional, "One For My Baby," where Clooney is accompanied only by Ed Bickert's muted guitar; she sings it soft and gauzy, as if glued to a barstool by sad memories.
Throughout the album, Clooney lets the band carry a lot of the load, which is just fine. Vache and Hamilton's subtly swinging interplay on "Hurray For Love" is a delight, and Hamilton's sax -- its gentle vibrato redolent with the smooth, melodic facility and thick, breathy tones of Ben Webster -- is wonderful throughout. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM ROSEMARY CLOONEY -- Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Harold Arlen (Concord Jazz CJ-210). THE SHOW ROSEMARY CLOONEY with Scott Hamilton, Friday through Sunday at Charlie's Georgetown.