Chaz Lipp is a saxophone teacher who occasionally gigs around Washington state. Lipp has honed his skill for years and now, luckily for us, he is ready to share it with the larger world. To do so, he has put together “The Chaz Lipp Groove Tripp” and created a debut album, Good Merlin.
The group consists of Lipp on alto saxophone, Charlie Hiestand on piano, Trevor Pelletier on upright bass, and Chris Patin on drums. They are all excellent musicians who obviously love the music and are having a good time, which is always a good sign. But the real magic happens when Lipp’s sax is joined on seven of the 10 songs by Sanjaya Malakar, a former finalist on American Idol who has a voice made for jazz.
There are three original instrumental tunes here (“Good Merlin,” “Groovy Green Eyes,” and “Fly by Night”) and they are swinging numbers that let the band have some fun and show their stuff. But the body of the album is the good, old classics, here sounding new and fresh. This is thanks to the remarkable way Lipp’s sax and Malakar’s incredible, flexible voice blend and complement each other.
These are timeless songs for a reason, and when done well and with joy and love as they are here, they capture the best essence of jazz. My favorite rendition here is “Fever.” What a perfect, sultry and slightly sassy version of that song! “Take the A Train,” too, will catch you up and send you on your own musical trip. “Summertime” has a lovely, warm vocal and some truly remarkable, soaring sax from Lipp.
The other songs, “Nature Boy,” “Watermelon Man,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “God Bless the Child” are all rendered with sensitivity, grace and innovation, staying close enough to the originals to be satisfying and flying far enough in their own direction to sound fresh.
Lipp is an amazing musician who has smartly surrounded himself with excellent musicians and found the vocalist who is his perfect match. I believe good jazz requires an underlying sense of joy, and this album has that in abundance. Good Merlin is, indeed, good magic and a groove trip(p)!