When AUK reviewed Paul Kelly’s recent retrospective collection, ‘Songs From The South’, we remarked on Kelly’s magpie like ability to gather up elements from power pop, folk, rock, bluegrass, soul and country over a prolific career allowing him to be considered as Australia’s foremost singer songwriter. ‘Please Leave Your Light On’ however is a bit of a curveball as Kelly teams up with jazz pianist Paul Grabowski (a fellow Australian) for a set of intimate voice and piano duets.
The pair have known each other for many years but the genesis of this album was when they teamed up as part of a series of concerts with Grabowski backing various singers. Tickled pink by the result they decided to formalise the partnership with this album. Inspired in part by classic jazz pairings such as that of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans along with the late night vibes conjured by Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle on songs such as ‘In the Wee Small Hours’, the pair have produced a warm and intimate listen. It does beg one to turn the lights down low late at night and indulge in their dulcet tones.
Aside from a cover of Cole Porter’s ‘Everytime We Say Goodbye’, all songs are from Kelly’s back catalogue, chosen for their suitability with Grabowsky’s transcriptions. A song such as ‘Winter Coat’ remains pretty much recognisable as the original was a piano led ballad but the mellow acoustic wash of ‘Time And Tide’ is transformed into a delicate dance between Kelly’s voice and Grabowsky’s piano skills. Perhaps the most successful translation is that of the swoonful ‘Young Lovers’ into the late night lounge jazz lozenge delivered here.
Grabowsky is elegant throughout as he roots around pianists such as Evans with even a little bit of Thelonious Monk thrown. Kelly’s on shakier ground as he certainly doesn’t have the warm tones of Bennett or Sinatra. However, and remembering the likes of Elvis Costello and Alec Chilton wandering into Chet Baker territory, he has a degree of vulnerability which is engaging, as on his best performance here on the title song.