We are delighted to announce the release of our eighth album: The Lock & the Key. There are eleven cuts on it: nine originals and two covers. It took just about a year to make, and we are quite proud of it. One of Charlie’s favorite tracks is “The Sweet Ride Home,” for which singer Marilyn Older wrote a lyric about the moments just after a wonderful date. It’s driven by a groove from drummer Tommy Barrick, and the melody is ghosted a fourth down by Joe Jackson’s trombone. Tutti ensemble section in the middle is the full-on Chaise Lounge statement. Another fave: “The Earl.” Sax player Gary Gregg routinely stuns our live audiences with his ultra-melodic solos, and we captured a hot one on this track, named for one of Gary’s saxophone heroes, Earl Bostic. Bass (and tambourine) player Pete Ostle shines on “Mozambique.” We may be especially proud of the last song on the record, “I Grew a Rose,” because we tried to get a very retro Harry Belafonte sound, and we think we hit the nail on the head. In concert, we sometimes use male backing vocals as comic relief, but on this cut we are nothing but sincere. The artwork for the album is by Adriana Cordero.
Charlie heard his first Christmas carol of the year on the speakers at Home Depot before Thanksgiving. Ugh, he thought. But he is probably like a lot of us…conflicted about these chestnuts. If you examine the traditional carols one by one, they are usually pretty good hymns—well crafted and perfectly seasonal. Too bad we get so sick of them. And yet we need them, and not just to make a living as musicians during the season the public wants to hear them. We need them for how they connect us through the years, both with our younger selves and with carolers who have gone before. This week, Chaise Lounge will perform our annual Christmas show, with tunes from our Christmas album. One song we always play is “Good King Wenceslas.” It is a sci-fi-tale of the Duke of Bohemia in the 13th century, who leaves heated footprints in the snow as he travels on foot to give alms to a peasant. The melody might be Finnish from the 1600’s. The version we usually sing dates from the mid-19th century. What is astonishing to us is how the fiery silver nugget of wonder in this song burns its way through the centuries to have fresh meaning every time it’s sung. That is some powerful Christmas hoodoo. If you’re in the DC area, consider coming to our show at Blues Alley.
You never know where your next idea will come from. For us, most recently, it came from a set of walking directions and an offhand crack from Pete. Last month, when we played at The Rooster’s Wife in North Carolina, we were honored to be houseguests of the club’s owner, Janet Kenworthy. After sound check, Janet gave us directions to her house: “Walk out this door, turn right on High Street, then walk up to Blue Street and it’s right there.” “OK,” I repeated, “You’re at the corner of High and Blue.” After the perfect pause, Pete said meaningfully, “Man, I’ve been there.”
How could this not be the next song in what Marilyn refers to as our “scorned-woman-slumped-over-
In Chaise Lounge’s seventh album, there’s swoonworthy original music, a timely reference to downloadable lyrics and chords, and a recipe for Gin Fizz Fandango (provided by the band’s bassist, Pete Ostle). Gin Fizz Fandango also happens to be the title track of a new album, released on Sept. 10, 2015 (Modern Songbook Records).
This is no ordinary jazz album. This is what they call a “cheeky” character album full of flirty flights of fancy perpetrated by musicians who take on the air of guys and dolls in a ballroom brawl — all in good fun.
The D.C. sextet features Charlie Barnett on guitar and piano, vocalist Marilyn Older, bassist Pete Ostle, percussionist Tommy Barrick, trombonist Joe Jackson, and reed man Gary Gregg. Barnett, a film composer, wrote 11 of the 12 songs, save for Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me.” Older plays piano on two tracks.
Chaise Lounge has been around since 1999, when the musicians jammed together at one of Barnett’s recording sessions. Ever since, they’ve jammed all over the country on the strength of a tight rhythm section, limber horn players, and the sweet, Betty Boop vocal style of Older.
The music is as retro-hip — think the Depression and the Prohibition, circa 1920-‘30s — as it gets, gently swinging, a little tongue-in-cheek in the hopscotch lyrics, tickling traces of a forgotten soundtrack from another era, even daring in places (a horn vocalese from the actual “Hopscotch”).
The overall vibe does feel like sipping on a fizzy cocktail, the bubbles tickling your nose, whether trombonist Jackson slides in on a slinky tango throughout the “Gin Fizz Fandango” instrumental or Older swinging on a pop song like “You,” where the lyrics go down as easy as the spring in the step of the horn players.
“You’s” particularly fetching for its cute, clever use of tempo to swing fast and slow, to a tantalizing crawl on the bridge home (“here’s where we end once we circle again, let’s drive real slow breathing in as we go”). Older also does quite a nice rap over the swizzle stick of horns at the 3/4th mark without faltering or needing a breather: “You accidentally brush my leg, and I go falling hard again, all you have to do is breathe your perfect love inside of me.”
Chaise Lounge isn’t a sit-and-listen band. The musicians play serious retro-dance grooves, the kind that would give the “Dancing With The Stars” cast a serious workout. Listen and bust out the moves on “Mambo Noir.” Be silly with the children tip-toeing around in a game of Hide-and-Seek on “Pigs In Blankets.” Slow-waltz in a timeless haze on “If I Never Get To Paris,” mostly on trombonist Joe Jackson and pianist Charlie Barnett’s melodic lines. Do the tap-dance shuffle with grandpa on “Celestial Navigation.” Older scat-hums (la-da-da-da-da-dum) through this gem of a closer.
Lest you assume it’s all fun and games over at Chaise Lounge’s Gin Fizz Fandango, the band turns down the lights for the grim emotional reaper, “I See You.” Older turns up the lonely, still sweet but sweetly aching for the fulfillment of real recognition “when the world looks the other way, I look in your eyes and say, ‘I see you.’” This one’s pure vocals, pure bliss, with the musicians mostly keeping time and exacerbating the loneliness and fear — pianist Barnett pressing urgency in only a handful of chords over and over, bassist Ostle illuminating the darkness, Gregg sampling a taste of that exquisite agony on his sax.
The true test of a remarkable band is its schedule. Chaise Lounge’s is jam-packed. The next performance is 8 p.m. March 4 at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel, Md., then 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. April 6 at Blues Alley in D.C.
A lot of people ask us about our suits: Where on Earth do we find them? There is no major mystery to this. We all have eBay alerts set up for “vintage men’s suit” in our sizes. And each of us has a good tailor—except for Tommy, who has his own sewing machine and an impressive set of sartorial chops. So for $50 on eBay plus a few nips and tucks, you can look like a million bucks. And if someone in the band orders a cool vintage suit that shows up in the completely wrong size, he brings it to rehearsal and someone else can usually wear it.
The only problem comes when a vintage suit is not quite as cool as eBay made it out to be. Take the specimen at right. It was sold to Charlie as a green sharkskin suit. When it arrived a couple of weeks ago, it was discovered to be off-white, with a sort of basketweave texture, and disturbingly rich in polyester content. It actually seemed to be made of the same material as Charlie’s Aunt Cena’s sofa. There is no tailor in the world that can make this right, Charlie thought—and the band concurred. None of the other guys would go near it.
But a loss for Chaise Lounge is a win for Purple Heart. They’ll pick it up next week. And we only hope the suit eventually finds its way to the musical act it was meant for.