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Lasting Romance With Love Songs

*** DEWEY ERNEY, "The Shades of Love"; Resurgent Music

March 13, 2000|BILL KOHLHAASE

The philosophy behind vocalist Dewey Erney's "Standards of Excellence" series--to perform the very best examples of the American songbook with respect and craft--has remained unchanged since the first installment, "Dearly Beloved," was released in 1995.

This fifth volume in the series looks to the moods of romance for its inspirations, pulling tunes from Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Gordon Jenkins, Fats Waller and the Gershwins, among others, to discuss the highs and lows of relationships.

The numbers are wisely programmed, and a narrative flow is established. "Our Love Is Here to Stay" melts into "Where Did It Go (Manha De Carnival)" and then is overcome by the feeling that "They Can't Take That Away From Me."

Erney's hemispheric view of things American, especially attuned to Brazil, is again evident as he visits Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa. His taste for the relatively obscure is represented here by the Jerome Moross-John Latouche ballad "A Lazy Afternoon" from the theater production "The Golden Apple."

Erney, who has performed with piano and guitar trios over the course of the series, teams with solo pianist Gerry Schroeder, a 30-year musical associate and music instructor at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. Erney, always a relaxed singer, sounds especially comfortable with Schroeder's reliably familiar, not-a-note-wasted support.

Saxophonist and fellow Golden West College instructor Tom Kubis adds tenor meat to this bare-bones approach on a lazy-paced "Ain't Misbehavin' " and a breezy "Our Love Is Here to Stay." On Bronislau Kaper's "On Green Dolphin Street," he lends lyrical soprano lines that complement Erney's airy phrasing.

Erney continues to make the most of his modest vocal instrument, singing with even greater attention to inflection and pace. The warm laziness of "Ain't Misbehavin' " gives way to a convincing authority as the lyric makes its declaration of forever.

The singer moves through Gordon Jenkins' difficult "Goodbye" in a way that makes you forget its difficulty. He buzzes easily through Truman Capote's capricious lyric to Arlen's "A Sleepin' Bee" but suffers briefly among the high pitches of Michele Legrand's "Once You've Been in Love," though he resolves each elevated passage clearly and with grace.

"The Shades of Love" finds Erney, always a convincing lyric interpreter, reaching new levels of honesty and expression. Could it be, as it sounds, that he has really lived the tales held in each of these songs?

* Dewey Erney, Gerry Schroeder and Tom Kubis appear Friday at Steamers Cafe, 138 W. Commonwealth Blvd., Fullerton. 8:30 p.m. $5 cover. (714) 871-8800.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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