There are some albums that you like for their virtuosity and planning, and others that you appreciate because everything falls into place, regardless of the individual pieces. Recorded live at the 15th Annual FMJS East Jazz Festival in the Washington D.C. area, singer Janine Gilbert-Carter leads her combo through a dozen well-worn tunes that have everyone popping their fingers for an album's worth of soulful jazz vocals.
Technically, there is nothing really new or innovative about this session. On paper, it is just another soul/vocal jazz combo, but the results leave everyone who participated rewarded. Gilbert-Carter leaves her gospel career for a short time to lead this impressive combo, including saxophonist Paul Carr, pianist Chris Grasso and guitarist Steve Abshire as the standout performers.
The set list covers a variety of moods. Beginning with an up-tempo version of Symes/Jones' "There is No Greater Love," Carr, Grasso and Abshire each get some brief solo time and set the tone for what's to come. Ballads, including Kent/Mann/Evans' "Don't Go to Strangers" and the Shirley Horn-associated "Here's To Life," are well-presented, with Gilbert-Carter going deep into her resourceful techniques to provide the melismatic delivery. Carr and Abshire's solos further enhance the material throughout the album.
Very effective swing versions of Kramer/David/Whitney's "Candy" and Brawnislaw Kaper's "Green Dolphin Street" are among the album's highlights while Gilbert-Carter lets out all stops for her bluesy and powerful delivery of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love." On most of these tunes, Carr comes close to reaching the epitome of tenor saxophone accompanimentHouston Person, who supplied the late Etta Jones with an endless supply of obbligatos and solos during their longstanding musical relationship. On "Please Send Me Someone to Love," Carr not only reaches that plateau but surpasses it with his impassioned solo.
With the end of her set approaching, Gilbert-Carter dips into her blues bag for her take on Denise LaSalle's modern classic, "Someone Else Is Steppin' In," aided by a funky Grasso intro, backdrop and solo. "At Last," the Harry Warren/Mack Gordon standard that goes back to the Swing Era, is an appropriate ending to the set, with a rarely heard verse and a fine solo by Abshire.
You know the rest of this story already. Everyone goes home with a smile on their face!
Personnel: Janine Gilbert-Carter: vocals; Steve Abshire: guitar; Paul Carr: tenor and soprano saxophones; Chris Grasso: piano; Gavin Fallow: bass; Clyde Adams: drums.