If all you know about the music of Bobby Troup is his “Route 66” road saga and the kittenish “Daddy,” songstress Deborah Shulman’s latest album, Get Your Kicks: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Troup, will be a delightful introduction. Certainly the Troup songbook is not as ubiquitous as that of a Cole Porter or a Sammy Kahn, and that is our loss. His music deserves better, and Deborah Shulman delivers. Listen to Shulman’s coy flirtatious interpretations and you’ll begin to get an idea of what you’ve been missing.
Although Shulman says that other than “Route 66” she hadn’t been familiar with the music before she got involved in the project, she knew that her husband had been a friend of the Troup family, and thought it would “be fun to explore the connection.” They were given access to the family’s musical library. “It was like going on a treasure hunt,” she explains, and the eleven tunes eventually chosen for the disc are treasures she, along with her pianist arranger Ted Howe and his trio, has made her own. “I wanted this to be a jazz album with a party vibe. I wanted this to be a jazz album, with no crossover.” If that’s what she intended, she hit the mark. This is an album that will have you smiling.
She opens with a mischievous version of “You’re Looking at Me” followed by a wild romp through “Route 66” featuring a lot of cool bass. Between the two they set the party tone for the rest of the album. “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast,” delivered with a vocal wink, echoes with delicious irony . She swings with the trio in a dynamic upbeat “Daddy,” that even gets a little raucous as it ends.
Indeed, she packs all of the ballads on the CD with an honesty born, she indicates, from her own “marriage collapse.” Her bluesy “Baby All the Time” that builds to a dynamite dramatic climax is one of the album’s highlights. Bleak though they are, “February Brings the Rain” and “The Meaning of the Blues” are gorgeous tunes sung with intensity. “It Happened Once Before” looks at the emotional peril involved in making a new romantic commitment. The trio—Howe on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Dave Tull on drums—adds some elegant solo work through all of the ballads.
“The Three Bears” is a whimsical take on the children’s story and “Lemon Twist” goes for some witty word play backed up by some equally witty solo work from the trio. “Girl Talk,” the one song on the album for which Troup only wrote the lyrics (the music is by Neal Hefti) gets a much more haunting, or as the liner notes describe it, darker treatment in Howe’s arrangement than it usually gets.