Chicago's Southport label has brought different groupings of instrumentalists into the recording studio to back Martha Lorin for her second album. Only superb pianist Mike Black appears on all the cuts with Lorin. To Ms Lorin and Southport's credit, they avoid the temptation of limiting the musical agenda to the usual standards by offering songs that are not recorded that often.
But it is the way the musicians are mixed that makes for an intriguing, unusual event. On "You've Got a Friend" and "The Island," Leon Joyce's snare shares accompanist duties with Black resulting in a stark, slimmed down rendition of these two tunes. The dean of Chicago tenor saxophone players (although Eddie Johnson fans may disagree), Von Freeman, shows up on two tracks playing especially soulfully on "Carefully Taught" from South Pacific. Another staple of the Chicago jazz scene, violinist Johnny Frigo, lends his swinging fiddle to a fine arrangement of "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and well to "Detour ahead" for which he shares composer credit. Once again Leon Joyce's rat-a-tat snares are prominent in setting the pace. However, it's the opening cut which provides the clue that this album may not be the usual run of the mill release. "Close Your Eyes" is kicked off with as a tango by Black with William Blount's clarinet taking the melody providing a seductive lead in for Lorin. She keeps the tango beat going with strong support from Blount's playing in the clarinet's middle register. A very attractive performance, indeed. "On Green Dolphin Street" offers still another interesting assortment of instruments. With Black's piano continuing to be the constant, Fareed Haque's guitar provides the lead in for Lorin's vocal followed by an athletic Von Freeman tenor solo and he stays around to play behind Lorin for the last chorus. The arrangement of the Johnny Mandel/Alan and Marilyn Bergman tune "Cinnamon and Clove" centers on a Caribbean beat played against Johnny Frigo's straight ahead jazz violin. Lorin's own "Low Down Blues," which she wrote with pianist Frank Collett, is the best of her two compositions and highlights some excellent bass work by Larry Gray.
But nowhere is Lorin's ability to create a storywith pictures brought to life than on the album's coda, "Lush Life." With William Blount's brooding clarinet as background, Lorin delivers a stunning interpretation of Billy Strayhorn's difficult to sing tale of depression and woe. Although not a threat to replace the Johnny Hartman/John Coltrane Quartet version as the classic interpretation, Lorin's work does not suffer by comparison. Good work all around on this album which offers a generous 71 minutes of music.
Tracks:Close Your Eyes; Come Walk with Me; Carefully Taught; Let's Face the Music and Dance; The Island; You've Got a Friend; On Green Dolphin Street; Rain Song; Detour Ahead; Just A Sittin' and A Rockin'; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Low down Blues; Cinnamon and Clove; Lush Life Intro; Lush Life