Lauren Gray seduces on this diverse debut. Her voice draws you in with intimacy and immediacy, and ultimately leaves you longing for more. Tommy Halloran is the equally impassioned band leader, best known for his inimitable ensemble Ambiguous They. Tommy's coming-of-age from ska to jazz and Americana, along with his ubiquitous live collaborations have secured him Young Lion status on the St. Louis live scene.
Lauren Gray's Five Piece Bucket illuminates a canvas of originals, standards, and a near-forgotten gem called "No Smoke Blues". Penned by the late jazz critic Leonard Feather, this classic 12-bar-blues showcases the inventive guitar-work of Dennis Segall. "Carry Me Across" is a new Gospel tune, but you'll swear it's a field recording from a dustbowl tent revival. "Gardenias for Rita" is a simple but sophisticated guitar/vocal with a melody that will haunt you for days. Lauren's wrap-up lullabye on "Wee Small Hours of the Morning" could easily bump ol' Blue Eyes as your favorite interpretation.
The drum-and-bass duo of John Halloran and Adam Ross match momentum,while only hinting at their rock-steady roots. A third Halloran, Charlie, provides several well-placed trombone breaks. Recorded live over just two nights, the band swings hard and winks knowingly about the rough edges. They're so damn good you just grin back.
Tommy and Lauren's jazz trinity of uncanny musicianship, band configuration, and brilliant songwriting ensures great things to come. Shelve between Peggy Lee, Kay Starr, Getz/Gilberto, and those Louis Prima and Herb Alpert records you never admit to. And leave space to grow.
-David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA