The Foolish Things present a familiar jazz-quartet lineup: guitar, bass, drums and female vocals. (The fact that the bass is really a viola da gamba does little to disturb that familiarity since its player, David Abbott, makes it walk and sing very much like a double bass.) Formed in 1999 from members of Glass, Dot and Two Fish Blue, the band creates an agreeable, accessible style of pop-jazz that owes no small debt to the cool, West Coast jazz of the 1950s. But it also acknowledges–if not quite successfully references–more contemporary influences such as acid-rock and space-pop.
Their new CD, Rushing In, features a 50/50 mix of originals (mostly penned by guitarist Louis Matza) and covers which include, not surprisingly, two tunes learned from “cool” jazz icons Chet Baker and Russ Freeman: “Let’s Get Lost” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily.” The band’s own songs succeed best when uptempo, such as “James Dean’s Dream,” with Matza running nimbly over Abbott’s walking bass lines and drummer Ian Schreier contributing solid brush and stick work. But vocalist Dottie Bea’s voice at times evokes Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins; it follows that she shows best on the slower, sultry numbers, including a cover of Style Council’s “The Paris Match.”
Two other covers fall unfortunately short: A tamed version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” doesn’t even manage to heat up, and an attempt to bring humor and swing to “Let’s Get Lost” gets very lost indeed. Also, the decision to add several layers of overdubs at the end of the band’s own “The Least Expected,” though pleasant, takes the song in a direction inconsistent with the rest of the CD.
Nevertheless, despite these missteps, when paired with the right tunes in a straightforward style, Bea’s smolder and the band’s swing combine to create competent, comfortable music.–jamie rogus