Alex Pangman may be Canadian, but this is not your standard Diana Krall jazz. Pangman’s seventh studio album, Have a Little Fun, is both her second album with Montreal-based jazz label Justin Time Records and her second album after a double lung transplant in 2008. It keeps true to Pangman’s fascinatio0n of all things ’30s while also exploring Paris swing music with a greater focus on guitar and violin.
Pangman’s music adapts older jazz sounds for a modern audience, without resorting to infusing them with more contemporary styles of music. While Pangman’s last album, 33, was focused on traditional American jazz with only occasional hints of a Parisian sound, Have a Little Fun departs from American big-band jazz and embraces Paris cabaret.
The mesmerizing charm of this Paris cabaret style begins in the first track, “Some of These Days,” with an enthusiastic swinging guitar solo matched with perpetually peppy vocals from Pangman that will leave the listener glowing. The album progresses through a mix of jazz standards and original songs, supplying a fresh, engaging take on many old tunes such as Sid Robin and Charlie Shavers’s “Undecided,” which ends the album on a high note.
Pangman’s vocals aren’t as strong as some of her peers — her voice isn’t as powerful or as commanding — but she suffuses her songs with a wonderful vibrato that is a joy to listen to. Her upbeat tone of voice gives her a sort of girl-next-door appeal, infused with a subtle mischievousness. The album isn’t consistent throughout, however. Her original songs don’t quite stand up next to her renditions of jazz standards, but fortunately they don’t detract from the rest of the album. Taken together, Have a Little Fun is still very enjoyable.