|Ray Gelato & Kai Hoffman - Hey Boy! Hey Girl!|
|Written by Frankie Hagan|
Hey Boy! Hey Girl! is Ray Gelato's love letter to the great duet performers that have inspired him—both musically, and as an entertainer. From previous collaborations, Ray has found his duet performance soulmate in the voice of Kai Hoffman, and the interior booklet that comes with the CD contains Ray's enthusiasm for crafting such an album, and his gratitude to Kai Hoffman and all those involved with the culmination of this project.
Though not intended as a tribute to Louis Prima and Keely Smith, the former whom Ray Gelato is already often compared to, many of the tracks evoke that specific performance spirit and idea, with little meddling to the original arrangements. Right out of the gate, "Hey Boy! Hey Girl!" the title track, is introduced as if it might be happening in front of you on an intimate Vegas stage. The instrumentation is wonderfully brassy and filled with vigor. The fast driving rhythm makes you pick your head up, and the playful vocal banter is satisfying. This framing track is also used to close the album in like manner, implicitly allowing the listener to perceive the recording as not only an album, but as an act. This energy flows right into "I've Got You Under My Skin," played at an equivocal breakneck pace, that keeps the energy level high, but doesn't rush the intent or content of the lyrics, or their emotive delivery from the singers. This is also true of "That Old Black Magic," which completely evokes the ghosts of Prima & Smith in a convincing, pleasing manner.
"You're Just in Love" walks playfully in to smooth out the energy with a driving cymbal opening provided by Sebastiaan de Krom, allowing Kai to pose the symptoms of her relative romantic condition and Ray to provided the synchronistic diagnosis, as the brass and the energy build to a vocal harmony, stirred in amorously fun lyrics. "Cold Cold Heart" shows off the inflective skills of Kai Hoffman, allowing them to swing, and show a reflective view on love. Ray matches her with ease, gives a great sax solo, and allows a nice showcase for the piano styling of Gunther "The Baron" Kurmayr.
Some of the tracks find a sleepier, dreamier sort of mood. The quieter "Under a Blanket of Blue" allows for pensive reflection, provides the bass work of Chamberlain and Hayhurst a chance to shine, provides Ray with a smoky sax solo, and creates a lovely slow dance jazz moment. "They all Laughed," and "The Lady is A Tramp," both engender similar emotions. "They All Laughed," having a slower, warm reflection, and "The Lady is a Tramp" with hot jazz bass licks, as the familiar lyrics delivered with certainty and gusto, create a real moment of hipster cool.
There is plenty of the aforementioned fun vocal banter in the various singing selections. Smartly arranged in a conversational style, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," appropriately comes off as a genuinely playful exchange of wit, and Ray's Brit identity. "Nothin's Too Good For My Baby" is butterscotch warmth over a pleasant uptempo swing rhythm. "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire," is a neat surprise, a rumba rhythm slow jazz tune that allows Ray to do the vocal equivalent of standing behind the lady you love and slow dancing while singing in her ear, really good stuff. Hopefully he isn't in the same position when he starts the equally lovely sax solo.
As a collaboration, Kai Hoffman provides a great counterpart and contrast to Ray Gelato's song stylings and ideas. "If I Didn't Care," is a track on the recording that poses the question that this album itself answers. Ray Gelato cares about the quality of the classic duet style he is celebrating with Kai Hoffman. Of course they care, and after listening to this album, you will, too.
Frankie Hagan is a certified professional dance instructor and a member of the NDTA (National Dance Teacher's Association), and the World Swing Dance Council. His articles and reviews have appeared in swing-dance publications for several years. Learn more about Frankie at his website: www.dancefrankie.com