Vocalist and actor Patrick Barnitt is releasing his second album, Sway, backed by the 17-piece Paul McDonald Big Band and featuring a varied collection of swing, pop, and blues tunes. At times Barnitt, with his robust tenor voice, will remind you of those classic male singers of the Great American Songbook. You know who they are. Yet, at other times, he comes off much more contemporary. And, for sure, he’s got a special feel for the blues.
Based in Los Angles, home to countless jazz musicians with some of the best playing in McDonald’s Big Band, Barnitt originally hails from a musical family in New Jersey. Though strictly a vocalist in this setting, Barnitt has played saxophone, bass, and piano growing up. He played sax in the school band at the University of Scranton, which is where he also studied acting. Acting brought him first to New York City and moved to L.A. in the early ‘90s. That’s where he met his mentor, L.A. legend Howlett “Smitty” Smith, the pianist, singer, and educator. Smith’s regular gig was at Bob Burns, the now defunct restaurant that attracted many from the entertainment industry. Smith often invited Barnitt to the stage to sing with him and produce Barnitt’s first album, 2001’s When the Time Is Right.
Barnitt became a mainstay on the LA. Jazz scene by night but continued to pursue his ‘day job” as an actor, starring in horror films Coffin and Coffin 2 as well as the movie Star Trek: The First Contact and television shows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager. He remains active starring in films.
Let’s get back to the music. Barnitt’s first album was done with a trio and he had always wanted to record with a big band, so he sought out one of the best. In addition to the talented players in McDonald’s Big Band, several guests appear including Grammy-nominated saxophonist Everette Harp who solos on “Cascade,” and obscure hit from the ‘80s British blue-eyed soul group called Curiosity Killed the Cat. Close friend and vocalist/actress Laura Pursell duets with Barnitt on Les McCann’s “The Truth” and on a bossa arrangement of “Quando.” Multi-instrumentalist guest Stephan Oberoff arranged the latter where he plays piano and Robert Kyle guests on flute. Oberhoff also plays on the smoldering arrangement of “Truth,” handling piano, B3, guitar, and strings.
Other highlights include his cover of the Doors’ hit “Touch Me” and Chicago’s “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is.” Great American Songbook fare is represented by “The More I See You,” “Please Be Kind,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Just In Time,” and “One For My Baby.” The title track, of course, was made popular by Dean Martin and is a jazz and pop standard. “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey” is an homage to his grandfather who used the play the song for him on his ukulele. “ACL Blues” is a Barnitt original, about his own experience tearing his ACL (just like Kevin Durant) playing basketball during rehearsals for the album. As such, it’s filled with medical/orthopedic terminology about overcoming the injury and getting on with life. As you might expect, it’s done as a fast tempo blues shuffle.
Barnitt covers lots of ground and a few genres here but his commanding voice is always front and center and these big ban arrangements suit the tunes remarkably well. Jazz and pop vocal fans and big band fans alike can find plenty to enjoy in this rich set of tunes.
- Jim Hynes