It’s unclear whether Tony Bennett’s return to hipness is evidence that crooning is again cool. Nonetheless, Mike Cotter has evidently decided to test the waters. Cotter, who has won several Wammies for his mainstream rock vocals, is experimenting with the Sinatra sound via the Mike Cotter Orchestra, an outfit that includes what trombonist Bob Israel calls the area’s “top-call jazz players”: ex-Charlie Byrd and Tormé sideman Chuck Redd on drums; brother Robert Redd on piano; Tommy Cecil, a former Joe Henderson backup, on bass; Chris Battistone as musical director, arranger, and trumpet player; and Israel, who once headed up the Blues Alley Big Band. Israel denies that Cotter’s swing toward swing music was commercially motivated: “This all just happened when we were together in the studio one day,” he recalls. “We tried doing the “Frank’ thing for a few songs just for fun, and boom!, we just all took off with Mike’s singing. Now it seems like everybody who hears us wants more of it.” The Orchestra plays the Washington Performing Arts Society’s charity ball on Sept. 30. For further information, call the Capital Artists Agency at (202) 828-7026.
Water, Water, Everywhere… It’s not hard to discern the concept behind low-key Celtic combo Connemara’s latest release, SirenSong. It’s all about HO. From the sleeve’s image of whitecaps breaking against Old Country cliffs to the traditional seafaring songs covered, it’s clear that Grace Griffith and Cathy Palmer had water on their brains during the disc’s inception. Griffith’s moody, crackling vocals and pennywhistle-blowing enhance the most accessible cuts here, most notably the “Sailing/Ships Are Sailing” medley. Palmer’s fleet fingers enliven “Ripples in the Rockpools/Kiss of the Fiddle” and a host of other tracks. Standouts among the disc’s guest performers are Mary Fitzgerald on Celtic harp and Zan McLeod on mandolin. The crowd should find this collection as soothing as waves on the beach. For more information, contact Connemara at P.O. Box 157, Accokeek, MD 20607.