About Jazz Passengers
The Cabaret showmen of the NYC downtown jazz scene, Jazz Passengers owe as much to Fats Waller or even Mel Torme as they do to the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Not that they sound like any of the above -- their oddball melodies, verge-of-chaos group interplay, and instrumental lineup (particularly the sax/violin/trombone/vibes front line) combine for a just-left-of-center quality that's instantly recognizable. Even more distinctive is their light-hearted, unpretentious manner. Their repertoire includes a number of offbeat, narrative-themed vocal songs, and they've done winking but ultimately reverent covers of such old standards as "Easy to Love" and "What a Wonderful World." Their collaborations with vocalists including Elvis Costello and Blondie's Debbie Harry in the latter half of the 1990s brought them to a somewhat wider audience, but unfortunately served to compound perceptions of the band as a bunch of glib pranksters. This is a shame, as they are first-class musicians with a unique approach to blending genres and playing challenging yet purposeful music.