Jazz CD Reviews – mid-February 2016

February 15, 2016

Among guidelines offered to critics is the suggestion that they should not allow themselves to be affected by what they know but only what they see or read – or in the case of music – what they hear. Although there is something to be said for this, I’m not at all sure that this is a suggestion that should always be followed. Applying this might account for the fact that so many of those who write on jazz are somewhat dismissive of Billie Holiday’s final recordings. For me, the bone-deep weariness and drained emotions she exudes add immeasurably to her performance while knowing what she had undergone in the years before and how little time she had left add even more texture to her reading of the songs. These thoughts have been prompted by the two albums reviewed here. While not at the same level as Billie Holiday (and I am sure that they would never claim otherwise), these two singers have also undergone hard times brought on by serious illness but fought hard to sing their songs and in so doing produced very good and deeply moving albums.

Laura Perlman Precious Moments (Miles High MHR 8625)

Coming late to performing as a jazz singer, Laura Perlman first had a successful career working as a music editor in the motion picture business in Hollywood. That said, from early childhood she loved jazz and would sing along with records by artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.perlman It was not just singers she admired but also instrumentalists, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. In 2002 grave illness caused her to reassess the direction in which she was traveling and she slowly recovered she decided to turn at last to her first love, jazz singing. This was far from easy because further problems arose, presenting her with even more serious health issues to surmount. By the time that she recorded Precious Moments Laura had faced and conquered these personal struggles, any one of which might well have floored most of us. The songs Laura has chosen are all standards and she looks into the heart of each song, interpreting the lyric with care and affection. Among these songs are I’ve Never Been In Love Before, But Beautiful, You Go To My Head, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, I’m Old Fashioned and My One And Only Love. Laura’s voice is warm and strong and is a delight to hear. Laura’s accompanists here are Bill Cunliffe, piano, Mark Sherman, vibraphone, Chris Colangelo, bass, and Joe LaBarbera, drums, and all have solo moments and are subtly supportive throughout. Two of the tracks are arranged by Bill, the other eight by Mark. All the emotions stirred by hearing these songs will be redoubled after reading the liner notes in which Laura and Mark reflect on her life before Precious Moments and in particular her personal battles in the past dozen years. Surely, Laura Perlman will bring us many more good albums in the future.

Jane Harvey Sings Ellington – One To One (Little Jazz Bird 1006)

This album was recorded when Jane Harvey was 88, was undergoing chemo-therapy, and had only a few months left to live. Despite this, reports suggested that this might be the best record she made in her long career. Could this really be so? After all, her past work is very good, including as it does recording Close As Pages In A Book with Benny Goodman in 1944, the 1959 album, Leave It to Jane, recorded by her then husband, Bob Thiele, a 1978 album of Fats Waller songs, You Fats … Me Jane, and more recently the critically-acclaimed Other Side Of Sondheim. So, were those reports exaggerated or is this new album exceptional? Happily, any wary preconceptions are completely unfounded as this album is an absolute delight.harvey In 2013, with a career going back some seven decades and aware that her time was fast running out, Jane decided on a final recording date. For this, she turned to the songs of Duke Ellington, mainly choosing songs that are familiar (if not always in vocal versions) as well as some that are rarely heard. Referring again to the circumstances of the date, it would have been understandable had she decided to hide behind a large orchestra but she was having none of this. Each of these songs is sung with the accompaniment of just one instrumentalist thus creating an intimate atmosphere in which the musicians explore the heart and soul of the music. Jane’s accompanists here are pianist Mike Renzi and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli on tracks recorded in New York, to where she flew despite her extremely poor health, and guitarist Ron Eschete, on tracks recorded in Hollywood (closer to home and supervised by her son, Bob Thiele Jr.). Given the pared-down format, there was no arranger, just Jane deciding with the accompanying instrumentalist what would be done. Among the songs are Sophisticated Lady, In A Sentimental Mood, (In My) Solitude, Prelude To A Kiss, The Sky Fell Down (a song for which Jane wrote the lyrics), What Am I Here For?, I Didn’t Know About You, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), and Mood Indigo. The album is set out as a tribute to Duke Ellington but the reality is that it is a tribute to an immensely gifted singer whose work should be used as an obligatory teaching aid for singers not just of jazz but also those in any area of popular music. This album can be summed up in one word: Wonderful.

You will find much more to entertain and inform you on these sites:-

Vintage BandstandJazz FlashesJazz WaxFrank GriffithJohn Robert Brown

And Amazon is the place to go for these albums.


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