Jazz vocalist Jane Stuart's debut, Beginning to See the Light
, could be a big success for unexpected reasons. The thirteen tracks are presented in a bright manner by a singer who knows how to swing them properly. This album could potentially attract a non-jazz audience: about half of the material consists of fairly well-known standards from the Great American Songbook like the title tune by Ellington and Strayhorn, Mercer/Arlen's "Out of this World," Rodgers/Hammerstein's "Getting to Know You," and the Coots/Lewis classic "For All We Know."
Stuart delivers the tunes in a strong manner, but in a way this recording is reminiscent of Norah Jones' debut album, which appealed to a wide cross-section of the vox populi. There is no scatting, just a sure-footed presentation of the songs in a pop/jazz setting. Stuart is accompanied by a fine ensemble that includes her co-producer/arranger/keyboardist, Rave Tesar, plus guitar, horns, bass, drums and percussion.
Stuart shows her jazz chops on the Jon Hendricks lyrics to Miles Davis' "Four," in which she recreates the tongue-twisting lyrics as well as the solo impressions written and sung by Hendricks, Dave Lambert and Annie Ross. Likewise, she approaches one of the most important and popular works in the Hendricks oeurve, Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," during which the group's horns are used to good effect. Finally, the Harry "Sweets" Edison composition "Centerpiece," again with Hendricks' lyrics, features solid jazz singing.
Stuart also has the presence to resurrect a few reasonably obscure titles, such as the Newman/Gordon ballad "Through A Long And Sleepless Night," which at one time was an effective ballad presented by John Coltrane during his Prestige period.
Personnel: Jane Stuart: vocals; Rave Tesar: keyboards; Kermit Driscoll or Sue Williams: bass; Rick De Kovessey: drums; Frank Valdez: percussion; Len Argese: guitar; Vinnie Cutro: trumpet; Frank Elmo: tenor sax; Dan Nigro: Baritone sax; Conrad Zulauf: trombone.