Kings of the Lobby
Christopher Madsen – Saxophone
Victor Garcia – Trumpet
Neal Alger – Guitar
Paul Mutzabaugh – Keyboards
Andrew Vogt – Bass guitar
Neal Wehman – Drums
Drawing inspiration from classic jazz-funk bands, saxophonist Christopher Madsen founded the quintet Kings of the Lobby. Consisting of some of the best musicians on the Chicago scene, the ensemble performs unique arrangements of hit songs from the past several decades. Their eponymous debut release showcases nine of these elegant and lively interpretations.
For instance, the medley of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and “Fame” has a loose electric cadence. Over these soulful beats, Madsen and trumpeter Victor Garcia trade sinewy vamps with guitarist Neal Alger. Garcia embellishes the melody with ethereal tones and vivid sound as Madsen colors his phrases with reverberations and honks. Drummer Neal Wehman concludes with an energetic solo over the group’s funky refrains.
The collective interplay has a bright effervescence that flows gracefully and with ease. Although the basic structures of the tunes are unchanged and hold few surprises, the individual musicians spice up things with clever and creative touches. A unique rendition of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart” features an intriguing duet between Madsen and Garcia that has hints of trad jazz. While on Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” keyboardist Paul Mutzabaugh takes center stage with an expansive and virtuoso improvisation.
Spontaneity runs as a thread through the entire album. Bassist Andrew Vogt gives Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You” an infectious jazzy edge with his muscular and resonant chords, as Mutzabaugh contributes gritty and swaggering lines. Elsewhere, Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet” gets infused with a hefty dose of the blues with Madsen and Garcia blowing with gusto. Alger lets loose, eloquent blistery notes over the rhythm trio’s swaying refrains.
The disc closes with the light and upbeat “Things Can Only Get Better,” which, given the times, may be a bit too optimistic. Nevertheless, this enjoyable recording puts a new spin on savoring these pop music gems and casts them in a fresh and refreshing light.