For every Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson or Dee Dee Bridgewater there are a hundred or more young women plugging away in relative obscurity, singing whenever and wherever the opportunity arises and hoping that sooner or later their talents will be more widely recognized and appreciated. In Chicago there's Hinda Hoffman, one of the best "unknown" Jazz vocalists I?ve heard, and in Jacksonville there's Lisa Kelly, another splendid singer who is perhaps best known (so far) for her work with the University of North Florida's award-winning Jazz ensemble. By Request was recorded five years ago when Kelly was still testing the waters, so to speak. She was quite good then; she's even better now. Among her more prominent assets are a pleasing voice with excellent range and power, accurate pitch, an impressive grasp of pacing and dynamics and, above all, clean articulation (one can easily understand almost every word). While Kelly sings well throughout, I must confess that her choice of songs left me wondering to whose requests she was responding. Of the ten vocals (track eleven, "El Diego," is an instrumental), there's only one (Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You") that I'd ask for. Most of the others (including one, "My Legacy," written by Kelly) are either clichéd or colorless. The best of them are Van Morrison's "Moon Dance" and Jobim's "Corcovado" (Quiet Nights). On the other hand, I can't imagine many people clamoring for another version of Ellington's "'A' Train," Juan Tizol's "Caravan," Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" or Bobby Troup's "Route 66." Not when there are so many other more memorable tunes in the Great American Songbook. But as we said, Kelly does the best she can with the ingredients, enlivening each song with an ample measure of warmth and commitment. Her back-up crew, including most often trumpeter Bruce Silva, pianist Doug Mathews, bassist Rick Ravelo and drummer Rick Kirkland, is drawn for the most part from UNF's School of Music. The up-tempo bossa "El Diego," appended as a "bonus track," is well-played by a quintet that includes trumpeter J.B. Scott and soprano saxophonist Craig Duran. In sum, a respectable album by a talented young singer who could have fared even better with stronger material.
Track Listing: Take the "A" Train; Moon Dance; The Very Thought of You; Corcovado; Caravan; Song for My Father; Bird Alone; Route 66; Crystal Silence; My Legacy; El Diego (61:13).
Personnel: Lisa Kelly, vocals; Doug Mathews, Heston Dean (9, 10), piano; Rick Ravelo, Sean Tarleton (7), bass; Barry Greene (4), guitar; Rick Kirkland, drums; Bruce Silva (1?3, 5, 6, 8), J.B. Scott (11), trumpet; Craig Duran (2, 10, 11), saxophone; Jonathan Bishop (4), percussion; Bill Prince (4), flute.