Jazz CD Reviews – November 2017

November 27, 2017

Cheryl Bentyne reArrangements Of Shadows (artistShare AS 0157)

When hearing Cheryl Bentyne’s delightfully fluid and youthful sound it is hard to believe that she has been around for so many years – the majority of them with ManTran. There are also about a dozen solo albums, on many of which she explores the Great American Songbook. In a sense this is what Cheryl does here on this, her latest release – but with a difference. This arises because she has chosen to perform songs by Stephen Sondheim who is rightly famous for his Broadway shows although many of these songs are not often heard outside the context of their original setting. The reason for this is that in many instances the song lyrics are not necessarily complete in and of themselves; they are integral to the storyline of the show and develop out of and/or advance plot lines. Cheryl is clearly aware of the potential problem this presents and was determined to find a way of performing them in an un-stagey manner that does not lessen their impact. As she observes: “Sondheim doesn’t just write song lyrics. He writes monologues. He writes how people really speak, and I wanted my renditions to sound as natural as Sondheim meant them to be.”cheryl

Helping Cheryl achieve her aim are arrangers who are perhaps best known for their work in jazz: Bevan Manson, John Beasley, Kevin Axt, Mark Kibble (all of whom also play on this album), Jamieson Trotter and Eli Brueggemann. Included in the nine songs on the ten tracks (one song is sung twice) are Comedy Tonight, from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Not A Day Goes By, from Merrily We Roll Along, Move On, from Sunday In The Park With George, and I Remember, from Evening Primrose, which was a television production. The song heard twice is The Ladies Who Lunch, from Company, the second version having Cheryl singing with only the instrumental trio of John Beasley, piano, Kevin Axt, bass, and Dave Tull, drums. Joining Cheryl on the first version of The Ladies Who Lunch are fellow singers Janis Siegel and Tierney Sutton, while singers Mark Kibble and Armand Hutton appear on Send In The Clowns, from A Little Night Music. In addition to the core trio, the instrumentalists accompanying Cheryl on some tracks are Tom McCauley, guitar and percussion, Brad Dutz, percussion, John Arrucci, marimba, Roy Wooten, cajon, and on two songs a string quartet (Rafi Rishik, Irina Voloshina, violins, Jennie Hansen, viola, Armen Ksajikian, cello). Beasley lays out on a couple of tracks and in step keyboard players Tom Zink and Bevan Manson. In recent years, Cheryl has shrugged off serious illness that would have defeated many but there is never a hint of this in these engaging and thoroughly rewarding interpretations. Far from it, in fact, because she explores the heart of the lyrics, finding humor and optimism and along the way setting the bar high for future jazz performances of these songs.

For more on Cheryl Bentyne, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown Lessons Lyrical (String Damper SDR 2136)

Also youthful in sound is singer Petra van Nuis who is heard here with an attractive selection of songs she and her guitarist husband Andy Brown have chosen. Underlying Petra’s light yet sensual vocal sound is a mature understanding of the lyrics and this especially evident on Weill & Nash’s Speak Low, Mandel & Webster’s A Time For Love, Sievier & Hamilton’s You’re Blasé, Jones & Schmidt’s Try To Remember, Philippe-Gérard & Vannier/Mercer’s When The World Was Young and Legrand & Demy/the Bergmans You Must Believe In Spring. There are also light-hearted yet engaging versions of Burke & Monaco’s I’ve Got A Pocketful Of Dreams and Oliver & Melrose’s Doctor Jazz.andy b The latter is a venerable classic of early jazz and it is a real pleasure to hear it again, especially as it blends so well with much later songs. Almost all of these songs are familiar, yet they are performed in a fresh and thoroughly entertaining manner. Interestingly, while the songs of Rodgers & Hart have long appealed to jazz artists, those of Rodgers & Hammerstein are less common in the genre. Here, Petra and Andy prove that music by the latter can work very well in careful hands with versions of Oh, What A Beautiful Morning and Bali Hai. This album is a real joy and warmly recommended to all who like to hear good songs well played and sung.

For more on Petra and Andy, including booking, contact: Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown.

Lisa B I Get A Kick: Cole Porter Reimagined (Jazzed Media JM 1076)

Lisa B’s love for poetry and other forms of the spoken word is as important to her as her love of singing. For this, her latest release, she has chosen to sing the songs of Cole Porter whose work consistently demonstrates that he too was at heart a poet. The ‘re-imagining’ indicated by this album’s subtitle is largely musical, choosing interesting tempi and rhythmic pulses not always associated with this composer. Examples of this come on the funky Night And Day and the Brazilian-flavored You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.lisa b The spoken word is heard very effectively in her introduction to I Happen To Like New York, which reflects on her immigrant forebears life-changing moment of arrival in their new homeland. Among the other songs hear are Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, Wake Up And Dream and Easy To Love. Lisa’s accompanists here are, collectively, keyboard players Ben Flint, Jim Gardiner, and Frank Martin, saxophonist Michael Zilber, bassists Fred Randolph and Troy Lampkins, drummers/percussionists Jeff Marrs, Alan Hall, Paul van Wageningen and John Santos. Although all of the songs heard here are familiar, they are made fresh by the always engaging and intriguing treatment they are given, notably through the arrangements (by Lisa and Jim) and the singer’s emotional commitment.

For more on Lisa B, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

All albums available at Amazon.

 

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