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The New Standards


There's a lot of fun to be found listening to The Finer Things, The Songs of Herb Ohta and Jim Beloff.

Ohta, the 'ukulele virtuoso and Beloff, a songwriter-music publisher, collaborated on this project to create a new generation of "standards"-songs in the tradition of Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn. The kind of tunes that made Sinatra famous and that every lounge singer still memorizes.

Ohta wrote the melodies, Beloff the lyrics. "Ohta-san has made 70 albums, but people might not realize what a tunesmith he is because he has recorded covers of the standards so often," says Beloff. "As a melody writer, he grew up in the 1950s and '60s and was really influenced by that golden age of pop."

Many talents add to the mix, including University of Hawai'i music professor and jazz bassist Bruce Hamada and famed L.A. session man Lyle Ritz. The CD even includes the recording debut of actor William H. Macy, of Fargo and Seabiscuit fame. "He's a huge fan of 'ukulele music and has a sweet character voice," says Beloff. Macy brings a kind of period Irish tenor sound perfectly matched to the whimsy of the song "At the Magic Laundromat."

Flea Market Music, $16.95. In stores or www.fleamarketmusic.com.

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