For better or worse, this doesn’t sound like any other modern CD that you own. Trombonist Charlie Halloran, who’s played with a long roster of jazz and alternative artists (and is currently a Squirrel Nut Zipper), has a thing for the beguine music that flourished in Martinique during the early ’50s. This is society dance music, elegant and flirtatious, and whether borrowed or original (the credits don’t say) it’s full of graceful melodies and quick bursts of hot soloing (every track here is three minutes or under). Halloran assembles a fine band, mostly members of Tuba Skinny joined by pianist Tom McDermott and Iguanas drummer Doug Garrison. He also includes a rum punch recipe on the cover (and a mighty strong one at that), so the aim of the album is to be festive and fun. So far, so good.
The catch is that he went high-concept with the recording, doing the whole thing direct to 78-rpm acetate, so everything sounds like an antique record complete with surface noise and scratches. Neil Young did the same thing on his recent A Letter Home, but in that case the haunting effect was intentional. Here it gives a surreal, David Lynchian effect that to these ears, completely undercuts the joy in the music. It’s also an anachronism, since the era he’s trying to evoke is the early ’50s—by which time the LP had been invented and studio technology had come a ways along. Even once you get used to it, the 78 sound has the effect of making the music sound frozen in time, when he’s aiming for timeless.