Mark Blake REVIEW by Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author
Mark Blake has always loved swinging music. Although it has been a lifetime dream of his, it has only been in recent times that he has returned to his first love of singing. The highly appealing vocalist has a warm voice, infectious phrasing (consistently placing notes in the perfect spot), and he certainly knows how to swing.
He recently made his recording debut in the US with his new CD, The Swing Collection. The singer is teamed throughout with arranger Elliot Deutsch and Deutsch’s impressive Los Angeles big band. Three selections are being released as singles and will be made available through Amazon, iTunes and Google play.
“It Happened In Monterey” was composed in 1930 for the Paul Whiteman film The King Of Jazz where it was sung by John Boles. The song did well for a few years (Bing Crosby and Ruth Etting were among the many who recorded it) before it slipped away into obscurity. Frank Sinatra revived it back in 1956 but it has not been performed all that often since despite its timeless quality.
This new version swings from the start with a groove reminiscent of Count Basie. Mark Blake takes a chorus that defines the melody and the lyrics. After the band gets to play a bit, he takes it out to its conclusion with enthusiasm and joy.
“Hello Dolly” will always be associated with Louis Armstrong, whose 1963 recording briefly knocked the Beatles’ out of the #1 slot in the best-selling charts. Thankfully Mark Blake does not attempt to imitate Satch and he swings Dolly in his own way during two spirited choruses which sandwich a hot interlude by the spirited Elliot Deutsch Orchestra.
“Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart” was written in 1934 for the Broadway revue Thumbs Up. While the show is long forgotten, the song has been famous ever since Judy Garland adopted it in 1938. Mark Blake states the verse with joy and sincerity and displays some nice long tones before this new version really gets swinging. The singer fits in perfectly with the Elliott Deutsch Big Band on the happy love song, uplifting the lyrics and melody while the ensemble hits accents behind him. The performance builds to a joyful climax and the results are memorable.
The music on Swing Collection, including these three singles, is the perfect way to discover the vocal talents of Mark Blake.