Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ian Shaw - Carol Sloane - Marlene VerPlanck

Ian Shaw Soho Stories (Milestone MCD 9316 2) * Drawn To All Things (Linn AKD 276)
A strikingly gifted singer, Ian Shaw, applies his wide ranging vocal sound to a delightfully varied selection of songs on the first of these CDs. More than most of his peers in the crowded world of the jazz singer, Ian is an immensely talented musician who just happens to be a singer. The instrumentalists gathered for this session, which was recorded in New York City, include James Pearson , Eric Alexander, Bob Kindred, Lew Soloff and Cedar Walton. Everywhere on this wholly admirable CD the reason for the acclaim Ian garners from fans and fellow musicians is immediately apparent: Class tells.
The second eagerly awaited CD finds Ian in splendid form and vividly demonstrating his lively sense of adventure by drawing his repertoire from songs not usually associated with jazz. The subtitle of this set is The Songs Of Joni Mitchell and Ian declares his admiration for this artist through his fluent exploration of a singer-songwriter of exceptional talent. On this enjoyable set are 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. Fans of Ian will need no urging to buy this CD; those who are unfamiliar with his work or who have yet to pay him the attention he deserves paid should take immediate steps to rectify this omission.

Carol Sloane Dearest Duke (Arbors ARCD 19350) * We'll Meet Again (Arbors ARCD 19400)
A 2007 release, Dearest Duke, is dedicated, of course, to Duke Ellington. Unusually, singer Carol Sloane's only partners here are pianist Brad Hatfield and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Peplowski. Mostly, 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. On We'll Meet Again, Carol's 2009 release, the singer is again joined by 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.

Marlene VerPlanck Once There Was A Moon (Audiophile ACD 338)  *  One Dream At A Time (Audiophile ACD 340)
Marlene VerPlanck's albums are never less than very good indeed; often they are breathtakingly excellent. For Once There Was A Moon, Marlene is accompanied by the trio of Tedd Firth, Steve LaSpina and Richard DeRosa. Also present are the imaginative treatments Marlene’s lat 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 classical composers of American popular music. Most recent is One Dream At A Time, released early in 2011. This is the first album from Marlene since the death of Billy VerPlanck. Nevertheless, his importance in the musical structure of Marlene's world is present throughout. Here again, 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 and Steve, for example, as well as Tomoko Ohno and Ed Vodicka. As for Marlene's singing, the way in which she continues to maintain the bell-like freshness that has always marked her work suggests miracles. Indeed, 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.

Bruce Crowther - he's ...
... been here and gone.

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