Nancy Kelly is a jazz vocalist who has recorded three albums since 1988 on the Amherst label. Born in Rochester, Kelly lives on Lake Ontario between Syracuse and Rochester in upstate New York. Her new album has the decided advantage of presenting her with a fine quartet: Houston Person (tenor sax), Dino Losito (keyboards), Neal Miner (bass) and Mark Taylor (drums). Their music, and especially the obbligatos and solo work by Person, lift this album up a notch. The presence of Nancy Kelly suggests the sympatico relationship that the tenor saxophonist shared with signer Etta Jones for so long. I'm not saying that Nancy Kelly's recording persona is anything like that of Etta Jones, but this disc hints at enough of a suggestion of the shared musical moments between Person and Kelly.
The songs are all serviceable and Kelly does breathe some life into such familiar jazz vehicles as "I've Got The World On A String," "Come Rain Or Come Shine" and "Like Someone in Love." After providing several soulful moments on the opening, Houston Person steps out "for a cup of coffee" and only reappears on the midway mark of the album. Thank goodness, for the very solid playing of pianist Dino Losito, another regular from New York's Southern Tier, who provides some two-fisted support for Kelly, as well as efforts by Miner and Taylor. When Person returns on "Come Rain Or Come Shine," the listener can settle back into a full comfort mode.
Coincidentally, Nancy Kelly opened for a jazz act in suburban Long Island that I had planned to attend and I did get a bonus opportunity to hear and meet the singer under working conditions. Her backing trio of Sarah Jane Cion (piano), Jerry Bruno (bass) and Joe Cocuzzo (drums) cooked, and Kelly showed her skills at both scatting and singing, taking a lot more freedom with the melodies. In addition, Kelly shared showed great ease with her musicians and exuded a hipness with both the audience and her trio.
Personnel: Nancy Kelly: vocals: Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Dino Losito: piano, Fender Rhodes;
Neal Miner: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.