Tributee: Bobby Darin.
Personnel: Roger Kellaway (piano); Roger Kellaway.
Audio Mixer: Timothy Martyn.
Liner Note Author: Gene Lees.
Recording information: The American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY (09/28/2004-09/30/2004).
With renewed focus on the late singer Bobby Darin in 2004, due in part to the making of a film biography starring Kevin Spacey, the timing became ripe for a musical tribute album to him as well. Pianist Roger Kellaway served as Darin's musical director between 1967 and 1968. He got to know him very well and recognized him as more than just an ambitious singer continuously in search of a hit, as many critics labeled him at that time. Darin often had in mind what he wanted in an arrangement and sang ideas for his pianist to score. When Kellaway was working for the singer, Darin was looking for more than rehashes of his earlier pop hits. The pianist therefore chose to salute him by recording a mix of standards from earlier decades, including "My Buddy," "My Funny Valentine" and "All By Myself," along with 1940s jazz ballads such as Duke Ellington's "I'm Beginning to See the Light." But there is also newer material, including a brisk, inventive treatment of Henry Mancini's "Charade," a pair of songs from the film Dr. Doolittle (a lovely take of "When I Look Into Your Eyes" and "Something in Your Smile," the latter which also features a warm vocal by Kellaway). There is also a dreamy take of Johnny Mandel's gorgeous ballad "The Shadow of Your Smile," played with a lightly implied bossa nova rhythm. The only song never performed by Darin, "I Was There," is a swinging tribute composed by Darin's former music director. The sincerity of Roger Kellaway's tribute to Bobby Darin is never in doubt. ~ Ken Dryden