Playboy Jazz and Concord Records have released "Jazz after Dark," a two-disc compilation whose theme is romance and seduction. The liner notes state that is a "perfect companion for any late night rendezvous when tempos slow down and feeling of intimacy grow." Playboy founder, Hugh Heffner, says it a slightly different way: "Turn down the lights, open a bottle of wine, let the music do the rest." At least, he is upfront about what this album is all about. And the selection of music fits the theme as well as a tight dress on a Playboy model. Each of the selections is all quite attractive and conveys a mood of sweet sensuality. The pieces are exceedingly familiar; there are few surprises.
The first disc is instrumental. Ellington’s ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ especially fits the bill, but so does Miles Davis’ rendition of ‘My Funny Valentine.’ Scott Hamilton’s ‘Angel Eyes’ is everything the name implies. It is haunting and seductive. Charlie Byrd and Ken Peplowski’ version of ‘Corcovado’ is sultry, but pales next to the original Brazilian version. And the final piece is Monk’s ubiquitous masterpiece, ‘Round Midnight.’ Who can argue with these selections?
The second disc features a string of well-known vocalists. Patti Austin provides an enticing ‘Our Love is Here to Stay." Susannah McCorkle’s ‘For All We Know’ is downright sexy. Tony Bennett’s ‘You Must Believe in Spring’ is passionate. Carol Sloane’s ‘Sweet and Slow’ is no less than a bodice-ripper. Carmen McRae’s lament on ‘I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance’ is gorgeous. And Billie Holiday’s ‘Solitude’is a curious selection. It serves as a regretful coda. It is no doubt beautiful, but what is Playboy trying to tell us?
Heffner succeeds in that these discs work best in a dark fire-lit room with a lover. The music does get the juices flowing. If the point is to seduce, then these mood-inducing discs do that exceptionally well. Playboy brings a lot of baggage to the table (or sofa or bed or outside deck), but that should hardly be surprising. For Playboy to be so romantic is to be almost quaint. The music itself is lovely but only serves as an enticement to other action that should be occurring.