Darden Purcell • Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood

Work has had me on the road a lot lately, so that new in-car MP3 player has been a lot of use. (Promoters, take note: please remember to send MP3s too, now my motor is CD playerless.) Some days the only thing between me and vehicular homicide is a rage-mitigating soundtrack, like that provided by Washington DC-based Darden Purcell’s very timely new release.

I can’t remember the last time I heard a record as cool as Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood—which is ideal for when inconsiderate road users get me darn hot. The eleven-track album is a smorgasbord of styles blending elements of straight-ahead, swinging, and Latin jazz, often within a single number. Trad purists should be pleased by how hard it swings, while those with broader tastes will appreciate the range of jazz styles incorporated.

Explore Upbeat Records

This Pan-American-sounding production presents a variety of new takes on old standards: “Taking a Chance on Love” is now an exuberantly bouncing swing waltz, “Willow Weep for Me” is 1960s lounge jazz featuring scat singing, ice-cold vibraphone and several time signatures, “Come Back to Me” gets the bossa nova treatment, and “Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood” is so laid-back it’s horizontal—Johnny Mercer’s 1951 side sounds positively peppy, in comparison.

Purcell’s voice is what I would call straight up: served neat, on the rocks with no mixer. Her tone is clean, clear, always bang on pitch with no distracting gimmicks. Don’t get me wrong, I like a characterful voice too (the unashamedly Swedish Gunhild Carling comes to mind), but there’s something about the understated competence of Purcell’s singing style that just seems to fit this relaxed album so well.

It’s an approach reflected by her musician colleagues—Joe Locke on vibes, Shawn Purcell on guitar, Todd Simon on keys, Jeff Reed on bass, and Todd Harrison on drums—all of whom keep it low-key throughout most of the record. Each swaggers lazily on with a confidence which says: “Sure, I could go harder—but I just don’t feel the need to.” But then, as if to silence anyone who doubted their talents, each player really lets rip on one track or another.

UpBeat Records

For Reed, Locke, and the Purcells it’s “Chatterbox,” the album’s one original number, which is a hard-bopping vocalese à la Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. Locke’s work on this finger-clicker is particularly impressive, with a rapid-fire vibes solo just before the three-minute mark which caused an involuntary attack of stank face in this listener. Harrison really shines on “Taking a Chance on Love,” providing a rhythmic backing thick with fills—and whipping up an absolute storm when his solo comes around. Simon is that ideal jazz pianist: filling out those middle frequencies with his ever-present, effervescent comping and hogging the limelight only very rarely—solos on “Come Back to Me” and “It’s a Most Unusual Day” are his highlights, for my money.

As well as being a great soundtrack for the road, Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood offers some scope for dancing, particularly if salsa is your style: the Southern-Hemisphere sounds of “Come Back to Me,” “Estrada Branca,” and “I Concentrate on You” beckon Latin dancers to the floor. Other tracks invite only quiet contemplation: “A Cottage for Sale” is a slow ballad with a minimalist arrangement—seemingly taking more cues from Willie Nelson’s version than Nat King Cole’s—allowing Purcell’s yearning vocal to weave its heartbreaking tale.

I can’t fault anything about this record, least of all the production quality: even through my new ride’s less-than-bassy stereo speakers, the sound is rich and full. Darden Purcell is an internationally touring artist, much sought-after vocal coach and Director of Jazz Studies at George Mason University—a CV which announces itself loudly on this delightful disc, both through her superb vocal performance and the roster of instrumental talent at her command. Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood is out now—see dardenpurcell.com for details.

Love’s Got Me in a Lazy Mood
Darden Purcell

Dave Doyle is a swing dancer, dance teacher, and journalist based in Gloucestershire, England. Write him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter @DaveDoyleComms.

Or look at our Subscription Options.