Noel Paul Stookey – Fazz: Now & Then
Never a big fan of folk — Peter, Paul & Mary was interesting & their lovely Mary Travers was an exciting performer. She emphasized certain notes & lyrics with her body & head movement. Loved watching her. But once the trio broke up Mary issued a scant few solo LPs that I felt (Warners/Chrysalis) didn’t promote well.
But of the 2-van dyke sporting beatnik men Noel Paul Stookey had the most musical expertise, originality, that I felt was never fully realized. A good-looking, excellent musician it seemed after the breakup his career cruised since his 2 Warners & subsequent LPs (independently released) are still hard to find.
Noel Paul, a fine solo artist proves an 84-year-old is a vibrant folk artist & on his own label Fazz: Now & Then (Drops March 22–Neworld Multimedia) Mr. Stookey relies less on folk/political music & fills this with 20 diverse pieces.
Originals, live cuts & covers like rocker Willie Nile’s “Under This Roof,” Christian-rocker Randy Stonehill’s “Leonard’s Toaster” — an excellent pensive tune, a standard 40s (“I’ll Be Seeing You”), classic Billie Holiday (“God Bless The Child” – surprisingly good & spirited), one folk traditional (“The Water Is Wide”) & Brazilian/bossa nova.
It’s a well-recorded document that’s to be respected. So, as Peter Yarrow morphed into a Pete Seeger sing-along folky, Stookey explored alternatives. Fortunately, he doesn’t sing about the pandemic & never preaches. For an elder-folk statesman, Mr. Stookey’s lost none of his vocal charms. His warm balladist timbre is filled with sincerity & purity.
“In Reverence,” (duet with Theresa Thomason), Stookey unleashes ambiance & it works admirably with a smooth David Mann sax. Not all work though the vocals are always pristine. With a piano, Stookey could be a good lounge/easy listening vocalist. Listen to “This Song (Bahia Song),” & while he’s not a classic balladeer his brilliant cover of “I’ll Be Seeing You” — thumbs up.
The majority are impressive. He doesn’t sound like a man in his 8th decade. Funky? Yes. “Love With a Capital L,” — an original that coasts along breezily with jazz guitar. His vocals slink & his accentuation has luster. If there’s one cool song – this is it. He should’ve added a female soul backup for additional punch. Then humor in “Fun Police,” sung in the tradition of Jethro Tull’s “The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.”
Recorded live “The Lady Says,” is a remarkable scat-driven jazz diamond. “Waiting For Angels,” is a beauty, sung well though mindful of Lesley Gore’s last hit “Better Angels.” It’s a good companion song.
Musicians: Paul Winter (sax), Eugene Friesen & Cam Sawzin (cello), David Mann (piano/sax), Edward Mottau (drums), Michael McInnis (midis: harp/Fluegel/vibes/strings/Wurlitzer piano/angels), Kent Palmer, Dick Kniss & John Miller (bass), Sue Evans (conga/drums), Paul Sullivan (piano), Henrique Eisenmann (keys/scat-singing), Paul Prestopino (mandolin), David LaPlante (suitcase), Robby Coffin (guitar), & Doug Cameron (violin).
The 1-hour-8-minute CD is a colorful 6-panel laminated piece. Color image: William Geisler. Available @ https://noelpaulstookey.com/portfolio/fazz/