Jazz CDs reviewed – mid-July 2012

July 17, 2012

Claire Martin Too Much In Love To Care (Linn AKD 390)

As Claire Martin’s many fans will know, on her recording sessions this exceptional singer usually steers clear of the Great American Songbook. This is not because she dislikes these songs; far from it, in fact and she sings them often, as those fortunate enough to hear her live will know. Here, Claire devotes a complete album to this kind of music and it is an absolute delight. It will come as no surprise to the aforementioned fans that Claire’s treatment is extraordinary; her burnished sound is allied here to an exquisitely tasteful touch in her interpretations. If all this were not enough, Claire is accompanied here by Kenny Barron, Peter Washington and Kenny Washington together with Steve Wilson all of whom play with their customary flair and grace.  Claire-Martin CDLast year, Claire teamed up with classical composer Richard Rodney Bennett in a thoroughly enjoyable set of songs composed by Cy Coleman. On Witchcraft (Linn AKD 359) the duo demonstrate some of the artful explorations into many aspects of popular song they have performed together for several years in London and New York (and beyond). This set is a vivid demonstration of how skilled musicians from whatever field can work together with superb results when hearts and minds are in the right place. Not a weak moment on this CD, which seems likely to be a joy forever.


Ian Shaw Drawn To All Things (Linn AKD 276)

Always seeking a different approach, Ian Shaw has chosen his material for this set from the work of an artist not usually associated with jazz. The subtitle, The Songs Of Joni Mitchell, tells us who that is and Ian’s admiration for this artist is vividly apparent in his fluent exploration of the singer-songwriter’s exceptional talent. Immensely enjoyable, this set contains many moments of sublime singing and it is clear with every song that this is a major singer at the very top of his game. Ian Shaw’s many fans will need no urging to buy this CD; if you are unfamiliar with his work or have yet to pay him the attention he deserves, will find this a delightful way to rectify this omission.  Ian-Shaw cdIf you happened to miss it, his earlier Soho Stories (Milestone MCD 9316 2) is another admirable and engagingly varied selection of songs recorded in New York City with Ian backed by seriously talented jazzmen, including Eric Alexander, Lew Soloff and Cedar Walton. Everywhere on these wholly admirable CDs the reason why Ian garners much acclaim from fans and fellow musicians is immediately apparent: Class tells.


Carol Sloane We’ll Meet Again (Arbors ARCD 19400)

On this 2009 release, Carol Sloane is joined by tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Peplowski, the pair being backed with great empathy by Bucky Piazzarelli and Steve LaSpina. The song selection draws upon familiar yet by no means overused items from Carol’s lovely repertoire. The quality of singing and instrumental playing is so high that it would be easy to fall into superlatives. And why not? After all, Carol Sloane is one of the very finest singers of the Great American Song Book active today and we should be grateful for sharing the same time and space. Of all the many jazz singers performing today, very few have the enormous talent that Carol displays in everything that she does. Anything that bears her name is an assurance of jazz singing at its very best. She is, in a word, superb.  Carol-Sloane cdA 2007 release, Dearest Duke (Arbors ARCD 19350), is dedicated, of course, to Duke Ellington. Here, Carol’s partner is again Ken Peplowski. this time with Brad Hatfield. As is her clear preference, Carol has selected ballads, but there are a few tracks with the languid bounce that marked so many of Ellington’s compositions. Everything is performed with stylish elegance; the instrumental solos, the accompaniment, and Carol’s impeccable singing.


Marlene VerPlanck One Dream At A Time (Audiophile ACD 340)

Never less than very good indeed, Marlene VerPlanck’s albums are often breathtakingly excellent. Released early in 2011, One Dream At A Time is typical in that Marlene has selected her songs with admirable care, interspersing standards with overlooked gems from the past and original material presented here for the first time. Marlene’s accompanists include Tedd Firth and Steve LaSpina, Tomoko Ohno and Ed Vodicka. As for Marlene’s singing, her flawless sound, a bell-like freshness that has always marked her work, suggests a miracle.  Marlene-VerPlanck cdIndeed, a newcomer to Marlene VerPlanck’s work might well expect her to be a new kid on the block. The difference, though, lies in the assured maturity of her interpretations, which are as close to perfection as it gets. A little while ago, Marlene released Once There Was A Moon (Audiophile ACD 338) on which she was also accompanied by Tedd and Steve, this time with Richard DeRosa. Also present are the imaginative treatments Marlene’s late husband, Billy VerPlanck, brought to his concepts for the songs. And, as always, these songs are exceptionally well-chosen, if seldom-heard gems from some of the finest composers of American popular music.


Carol Kidd & Nigel Clark Tell Me Once Again (Linn AKD 377)

There has been a long enforced gap since Carol Kidd’s last recording and during that time her vocal sound has taken on a subtle maturity that sits very well indeed with her ability to reach the heart and soul of any song she sings. Her recent welcome return to the music scene has also brought another change; now, she works in duo with the fine guitarist, Nigel Clark. As Carol’s many fans will recall, during her concerts in the past she always offered a few moments when she sang with only guitar accompaniment and the delight this brought to audiences has now been built upon with enormous success. Carol’s repertoire here, as always, presents a comfortable mix of mainly standards with a few items of the best of contemporary pop. There is also an original, composed by Nigel to Carol’s lyric, Tell Me Once Again, and very good it is too. Carol’s lovely vocal sound has never been better and is superbly showcased by Nigel’s fluent guitar.

Carol-Kidd cd




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