P>It's obvious that the producers of this album believe that the music of Noel Coward is under valued, especially in the United States and, more to the point, by the world of jazz. The liner notes assert that Coward's songs are as versatile as Gershwin, Kern and Berlin's and consequently jazz artists should be as anxious to record them as they are the material of these icons of American popular music. That Coward was a genius is not disputed. He produced more than 60 plays, revues, musicals and operettas. At one time, he had four productions running simultaneously in London's East End. But for the most part his music has not been favored by many jazz performers. Artie Shaw did record a swinging version of "Zigeuner" and Sonny Rollins has "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" on one of his albums. But jazz versions of Coward tunes are relatively rare.
This album compiles 20 songs from Coward's productions covering the period 1928 to 1961. Respected cabaret singer Barbara Lea and accompanyist supreme, Keith Ingham, work mightily to validate the producer's belief in Coward's music. While not strictly jazz musicians, their work certainly has a jazzy ambience. Lea and Ingham offer admirable workings of several of Coward's better known tunes like "Mad About the Boy", "Someday I'll Find You", "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" and "Zigeuner." Ingham adds some fine stride piano to Lea's vocal "Poor Little Rich Girl" making it one of the highlights of the album. Lea, who has been performing since the 1950's, comes from the vocal school which believes that lyrics are there to tell a story and should be valued as such. She does not engage in scatting, swooping or other vocal distortions. Mabel Mercer, Sylvia Sims, the inestimable Elisabeth Welch and Lee Wiley are among the more distinguished graduates of that school. Despite the efforts of Lea and Ingham Noel Coward's songs, can't support a 72 minute CD, whereas the music of the Gershwins, Kern and Berlin can and often have.
But for Coward devotees, it's not likely they will come upon a better set of interpretations of his music than those dispensed on this album by Miss Lea and Mr. Ingham.
Tracks:Zigeuner*; There Will Always Be; Twentieth Century Blues*; Mad About the Boy; Chase Me Charlie; Never Again; Sigh No More; If Love Were All; Sail Away; A Room with a View*; Poor Little Rich Girl*; Medley*: Someday I'll Find You, I'll See You Again, I'll Follow My Secret Heart; Something Very Strange; Nina*; Come the Wild, Wild Weather; When You Want Me*; Play, Orchestra Play; You Were There*; World Weary; The Party's Over Now*