Houston Music

Mood Indigo

The husband-and-wife vocal duo of Susan Elliott and Joe Romano, better known as Mood Indigo, has been singing jazz in an intimate and relaxed style for 17 years. The more experienced of the two, Romano also plays guitar and harmonica. His credits include serving as music director for the Texas Theatre Foundation in the '70s and writing music for Sesame Street and other children's programs. Elliott, whose career began when she met Romano in 1984, also does session work and handles most of the lead vocals here.

Oh, Solo Duo! is Mood Indigo's debut recording, and given the years Elliott and Romano have spent together, their airy sound is understandably well crafted. Their vocals are light and mellow, and there's not a harsh note to be heard. Romano's guitar backup is sparse -- almost minimal -- a bare foundation for the singing. In many ways, their sound and feel epitomizes lounge jazz.

Mood Indigo's song selection -- jazz and pop standards -- is equally unthreatening, though occasionally quirky. "Better Than Anything," for instance, is presented in a wonderfully relaxed manner, but the lyrics are so dated (as yesterday's news as Huntley and Brinkley) it's almost camp. Elliott does some cheerful scatting on "In a Sentimental Mood," her embellishments as tasteful and refined as the man who co-wrote the tune, Duke Ellington. At the same time, her singing is so pretty and peppy that the haunting tones of the original score are lost. Likewise, the duo's take on Dave Frishberg's "My Attorney Bernie" lacks the bite and sardonic quality of the original. They hold notes where Frishberg snaps them off with quick wit.

Elliott and Romano are at their best when they stretch beyond the ultrarelaxed style, such as on Al Jarreau's "Could You Believe," on which Elliott pulls out some Americana (more specifically, Kentuckiana) tones in her voice. She not only interprets the gospel-styled number with country/bluegrass flair, but when she belts out the lyrics, she also reveals some powerful chops.

Overall, Oh, Solo Duo! is a nice recording. "Nice," though hackneyed, is the word that best describes this music. It's well performed and pleasant. The singing is pretty, and the arrangements tasteful. Nothing here will knock anyone out of his La-Z-Boy, but it's doubtful that was ever the intent. Indeed, the mood of Oh, Solo Duo! is as soft and pleasant as the color indigo.

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