First time I heard Jon Regen was when he was playing piano with Jimmy Scott the first time Scott ever played Ronnie’s. That was a marvellous evening and Regen a simpático accompanist, his jazz chops reminding me at the time of Joey Calderazzo: he was that good.
Time has moved on. Sadly Little Jimmy is no longer with us. And as for Regen his career has twisted and turned bravely but no less remarkably as a reinvented singer/songwriter-pianist with a singing style landing unselfconsciously somewhere between Randy Newman and Billy Joel the first song here ‘I Will Wait’ signposts Newman although Regen doesn’t really do social critique more situational musing about life’s little disappointments and heartaches.
Mainly recorded in a Santa Monica studio during September last year produced by Mitchell Froom, well known for his work in the 1980s and early-90s with Crowded House who slips in a little additional keyboards and programming, this is largely a stripped down trio record Regen’s fine pianistic touch enhanced by bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Pete Thomas from the Elvis Costello band with a little extra guitar and backing vocals from Val McCallum on a few tracks and congas from Don Heffington towards the end on ‘Chapter Two’ the most optimistic song of the whole affair.
All the songs are Regen’s and vocals dominate. There is a certain intimacy in the way the album unfolds itself and a slight poignancy about some of the songs say on ‘Run to Me’ (‘When there’s nothing left to say/And you can’t fake it anyway/You can run to me’) almost an antidote to disappointment and world weariness.
Regen doesn’t do cynicism but informed realism and that’s his strength, his croaky voice not falling into a designer vocals hole although the songs are very grown-up and highly supper-club friendly but without the fakeness. It’s more nuanced than 2011’s Revolution I think, more reflective, and all the better for it and a sharp turn away from his big selling Change Your Mind instrumental diversion in 2013. The big song, Sherlock no kidding, is the Radio 2 friendly New Orleans-flavoured title track time machine song of middle age (‘When I was a boy I had it all too good/No one ever said it would turn to soot’), listen above, where Regen punches out the chorus with a real passion and you’re carried along. SG
Hear Regen at the Pizza Express Jazz Club this weekend where he’s playing on Saturday and Sunday evening