January 14, 2016
Musically speaking, the worlds of jazz and cabaret and stage and screen are often forcibly separated by boundary lines that impede performers and writers. Unfortunately, this means that audiences potentially lose a lot. Fortunately, there are some artists who demonstrate the artificiality of these boundaries by their dedication to wide-ranging repertoires that happily and successfully embrace these various sources. These thoughts have been brought to mind by three albums that coincidentally came together for review.
Daryl Sherman My Blue Heaven (Muzak MZCF 1322)
There are some names that tell you what to expect and as always Daryl Sherman’s name on an album heralds a delightful experience. This set, recorded in New York City and released on the Japanese Muzak, Inc. label, is a special treat for all of this exceptional singing-pianist’s many fans. Here, Daryl plays and sings a delightful selection of songs, ranging through standards, show tunes, rarely heard work by songwriting masters. Among the songs are Fly Me To The Moon (Bart Howard), The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (Jimmy Webb), You Turned The Tables On Me (Louis Alter, Sidney Mitchell), Inside A Silent Tear (Blossom Dearie, Linda Albert), The Brooklyn Bridge (Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn), My Blue Heaven (Walter Donaldson, George Whiting), which includes Japanese lyrics by Horiuchi Keizo), two of Cy Coleman’s compositions, I Walk A Little Faster (lyrics by Carolyn Leigh) and You Wanna Bet (Dorothy Fields). There are also two originals, Pat McCarthy’s Let’s Go Live In A Lighthouse and Daryl’s own Cycling Along With You. Most of the songs are performed by Daryl alone, while on the two exceptions she is joined by bassist Harvie S., this minimalism especially suiting Daryl’s style. Every year now, Daryl visits Japan, most recently spending several weeks there at the Tableaux Lounge in Tokyo, and she continues to visit Europe, appearing in the UK and the Netherlands. For those of us who cannot get to see and hear Daryl live, this is an ideal album as there is throughout a delightful sense of intimacy. An exceptional set by a fine singer and pianist who remains a New York treasure.
Mary Foster Conklin Photographs (MockTurtle Music)
This selection of songs by Mary Foster Conklin demonstrates not only her performing skills but also her interest in and love for the dusty corners of the world of popular music. Not that the songs heard here are unworthy – far from it because Mary presents some lovely if lesser-known gems that are performed all too rarely. Prominent among these songs are five with lyrics by Fran Landsman, lyrics that are witty, wise and perhaps a little dark. There has been a recent revival of interest in Landsman’s work, with British pianist Simon Wallace writing music for the words. Here, though, the songs from an earlier date: Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most (music by Tommy Wolf), Small Day Tomorrow,The Winds Of Heaven, Nothing Like You (Bob Dorough), Photographs (Alec Wilder). There is an emotional intimacy about these songs that is captured most effectively by Mary. Jazz fans will recognize the composers of Long As You’re Living (Julian Priester and Tommy Turrentine, lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr), Moonglow (Will Hudson, Eddie DeLange), Key Largo (Benny Carter, Leah Worth), and there are also songs from Johnny Mandel (Cinnamon And Clove) and John Lennon and Paul McCartney (For No One). Mary is very sympathetically accompanied by (collectively) John diMartino, piano (he also wrote the arrangements), Ed Howard, bass, Shinnosuke Takahashi, drums, Joel Frahm, soprano and tenor saxophones, Warren Vache, cornet, Paul Meyers, guitar, Nanny Assis, percussion, with special guest Houston Person playing tenor saxophone on For No One.
Deborah Shulman My Heart’s in The Wind (Summit DCD 671)
A selection of ballads presented very attractively by a singer with a rich and warm voice. Deborah Shulman’s previous albums include Get Your Kicks: The Music & Lyrics Of Bobby Troup, and 2 For The Road, on which she sings with Terry Trotter who also plays on this new release. Deborah not only performs as singer but also as actor, and has sung and acted in a National Company production of Cats. Her repertoire on this Summit Records release includes Never-Never Land, Loving You, Where Do I Go From Here, This Hotel, A Sleepin’ Bee, You Are There, and The Shining Sea. Some of these songs come from Broadway, some from Hollywood, others from the Great American Songbook and while all are familiar none is overused. Deborah interprets lyrics with care and understanding, the liner notes (by Thomas Cunliffe) revealing that some of the music here mirrors the singer’s loving relationship with her late parents and the resulting emotional undertow adds immeasurably to the occasion. In addition to pianist Terry Trotter, Deborah is accompanied by guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Ken Wild and drummer Joe LaBarbera, although these four instrumentalists appear together on only four tracks. This spare accompaniment results in uncluttered arrangements that draw in the listener, making the experience one of unforced intimacy. The songs can thus be heard on different levels – the listener can not only share the singer’s feelings but can also bring to them his or her own emotional response. This is a vocal skill possessed by only a few singers. A very pleasing album that will be enjoyed by those who like jazz singers and more widely by anyone who likes to hear good songs well sung.
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And as always, albums can be bought at Amazon.