In the Tradition
. Was Bessie Smith a “blues singer” or a “jazz singer”? What about Dinah Washington? Billie Holiday is an easier case. She recorded only two true twelve bar blues songs. But these other artists? They are not so easy. So with the case of LaVerne Butler. The music on Blues In The City
is that seductive hybrid existing where the edges of barroom blues and high-style jazz begin to dissolve into one another, creating an aural taste and aroma that is at once sophisticated and earthy. This is a disc that remains firmly (and comfortably) in the middle of that intersection where popular music, jazz and blues kiss.
Influences. Colleagues have opined that Ms. Butler sounds like a pop Dinah or blue Billie. I think she is a female Sinatra. Her repertoire on this disc includes the Sinatra classics “One More for the Road” and “Willow Weep for Me”. Her phrasing is simple and lean in a thoughtful way, like the Chairman’s. Her delivery is in all good taste. There are no scat pyrotechnics. No, this is not Butler’s style. Instead, she concentrates on the nuances. Caressing syllables and rests in a sensuous way that is never cheap—always tasteful and refined.
This disc is populated with work-horse standards made fresh by Butler’s spare approach. The only possible quibble would be the inclusion of background vocalists, who detract from Butler’s authoritative delivery. Then again, the songs are all fun because of their inclusion. A sexy “Hit The Road Jack” is the disc highlight. The supporting trio is very fine delivering smart, understate solos that perfectly match Butler’s overall approach.
This is not music of reverence, it is music of practice. Blues In The City is a pragmatic release illustrating how this music is supposed to sound.
Personnel: LaVerne Butler: Vocals: Bruce Barth: Piano; John Webber, Bass; Klaus Suonsaari: Drums; Ava Burton and Janet Givens: Background Vocals