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Picks and Pans Review: Mister Spats

updated 05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/1984 01:00AM

June Bisantz and Steve Evans

To avoid what Mr. Micawber called "pecuniary difficulties," June Bisantz spends three quarters of her time running the public relations art department at a Long Island college hospital. Steve Evans, June's husband, pays his share of the bills by doing free-lance music copying and arranging. In the moments left to them over the last three years, they wrote and produced this album (and Bisantz designed the jacket), even launching their own label when no company would invest in it. Out to lunch, you companies! Mister Spats features some choice New York jazz talent, including Steve Swallow on electric bass and Bob Moses on drums—a rhythm section so lissome it speaks like a subconscious voice. On electric piano, Evans, 36, is an inspired painter whose sometimes pointillistic, sometimes gauzy, accents color and propel the songs. His arrangements, employing six or more pieces including extra percussion, position the soloists imaginatively amid shifting harmonic patterns and evanescent interludes. Among the fine soloists, David Gross, a virtual unknown, sets the pace with shiveringly good work on flute (South Bronx Cheer) and alto sax (African Piece). Most captivating of all is Bisantz, 35, a gifted singer with a warm, bright, intensely vibrant voice and marvelous offhand timing. On the title cut, a slippery, finger-snapping blues about a tuxedoed "hipster" of the night who "goes oozing down the sidewalk," she is playful and twisting—in style almost a trumpet. She can navigate fast, complicated melodies like A Touch of the Rare with sensuous, feline ease. Her greatest performance, and the couple's instantly memorable composition, is Quiet Love, which they wrote for their wedding in 1980 ("My gentleman and partner/There really is something to be said for quiet love"). It's a languorous and reflective melody flushed nonetheless with passion. It's hard to believe Bisantz has never had a lesson and has been singing only 10 years. Her voice is a revelation—caressing and velvety, but electrically alive. (Track, c/o Rounder, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, Mass. 02140)

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