Fromage

“You Light Up My Life”

(Blue Canoe Records)

Like The Bad Plus, who made their bones by deconstructing familiar rock and pop tunes for jazz audiences, Randy Hoexter has also recontextualized radio playlists of summers past. On his wonderfully titled release Fromage (Blue Canoe), the Atlanta-based pianist dips into a fondue pot of 1970s cheese with his jazz treatments of hit singles that ruled the airwaves. However, he’s not so much making fun of them as trying to layer disposable (if indelible) ditties with rhythmic and harmonic sophistication, no easy task when dealing with “You Light Up My Life” or “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy.” Hoexter’s arrangements manage to extrude fresh flavor from pre-chewed bubblegum, for the most part maintaining what made the former pop hits stick to the bottom of listeners’ brain pans. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded himself with A-list players. A sprightly read of Rupert Holmes’ inescapable “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” rides a Caribbean groove laid down by bassist Jimmy Haslip, drummer Dave Weckl and percussionist Kit Chatham, while Hoexter and saxophonist Sam Skelton trade verses. Hoexter injects bluesy grooves and Latin touches into his solos, and leaves room for a slippery Haslip solo. The outro by Skelton and guitarist Trey Wright adds a touch of introspection to a song that blithely deals with infidelity.

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