J.C. Hopkins Biggish Band

Under a Brooklyn Moon

Don't assume from his spiffy 1940s cover-art attire that ex-S.F. folk-rocker J.C. Hopkins (Flophouse) is going all Cocktail Nation on us. Where most exponents of the '90s lounge/neo-swing wave were style-over-substance acts, Hopkins wisely circumvents any pseudo-hepcat kitsch, preferring instead to draw upon enduring, more jazz-oriented exemplars (Count Basie, Artie Shaw, etc.). Moon sounds like a hits collection from big-band swing's heyday, yet all the songs are originals, and Hopkins' heartfelt respect for that era's musicality and songcraft raises this set above a mere nostalgia jaunt. It doesn't hurt that the Biggish Band includes ace up-and-comers (Claire Daly, Liberty Ellman) along with veterans (Warren Smith, Vincent Chancey) of the New York City jazz scene. On "Settle Down," the horns have a luscious Duke Ellington-like creaminess; vibes add a breezy, West Coast cool-school ambience throughout. Most vocals are by Queen Esther (whose crisp, clear intonation recalls that of Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney), convincingly conveying pensive desire ("Someday") and night-on-the-town aplomb ("Here Comes Love"). Though hardly innovative, Moon is an inspired evocation of a great chapter in American pop history, not a cheesy mock-up.

 
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