MICHAEL FEINSTEIN & GEORGE SHEARING
It's more than a little ironic that Harry Warren's name doesn't appear on the cover of the new duet recording by Michael Feinstein and George Shearing. "Hopeless Romantics" is, after all, a 15-track salute to Warren, the great pop composer who never received the public acclaim due him for writing the melodies to such enduring pop songs as "I Only Have Eyes for You, "The More I See You," "You'll Never Know" and "At Last." Warren achieved many things in his career -- he died in 1981 -- but name recognition commensurate with his rare talent and extraordinary output certainly wasn't one of them.
This simpatico pairing of Feinstein, on vocals, and Shearing, on piano, won't change that. But "Hopeless Romantics" does softly illuminate Warren's genius, offering a consistently lyrical blend of favorites (all the aforementioned tunes as well as "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" and "Serenade in Blue") and such lesser-known gems as "Shadow Waltz" and "I Know Why (And So Do You)." Warren had the taste and luck to work with many fine tunesmiths, so most of the songs here aren't exactly a hard sell. Yet by sticking with slow tempos, Shearing warmly emphasizes the insinuating charm of Warren's melodies, and Feinstein delivers every lyric as if it were worth savoring. (Even "September in the Rain," an uptempo hit for the Shearing Quintet more than 50 years ago, is performed as a ballad.)
No doubt many jazz and soul fans will find themselves recalling far more distinctive and soulful interpretations of Warren songs while listening to these hushed renderings, but Feinstein and Shearing nevertheless salute the composer with abundant affection and grace.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday at Strathmore.