In 2003, after I heard Mary Ann Redmond
's astonishing voice for the first time, we did an interview
here called "On the Verge."
Well, she's still on that vergeat least everywhere outside of the Washington, D.C. area, where she lives. With just a handful of albums to her name, Redmond has won an astounding total of 22 Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards) in the jazz, pop, rock, blues, traditional R&B, and urban contemporary categories. The common denominator is the soulful power of her voice: it's safe to say that there's nothing like it in jazz. Compared to What
contains Redmond's most explicit jazz instrumentation to date. Produced by bassist Paul Langosch
, who toured with Tony Bennett
for 20 years, and arranged by keyboardist Jay Cooley, who's played with Phil Woods
and Ernestine Anderson
, it begins with a classic trio take on "Come Rain or Come Shine" that features a tasty tenor solo by Bruce Swaim. Langosch and Cooley are part of Swain's ongoing quartet, which helps explain the smooth camaraderie of their playing; they get fine rhythmic support from British drummer Dave Mattacks
, who has recorded with Spyro Gyra
, among many others.
But whatever genre she's exploring, Redmond's full-hearted interpretations distill every song into something unique and memorable. She swings just as hard on the blues anthem "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" as she does on Stevie Wonder
's "Creepin'" and Joni Mitchell
's "Coyote"; on Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" she gets down and dirty with the help of Dan Hovey's sexy electric guitar.
Other highlights: Redmond's take on the jubilant title tune, which finally clarifies Les McCann
's classic 1971 vocal (you can love his version without fully understanding it); the sinuous Latin twist to Leonard Cohen
's "Dance Me to the End of Love"; and the surprise ending of "I Got It Bad" which discards the standard chick-singer drama to underscore the song's quiet, underlying dejection. It's also worth noting that "Love Me Anyway," the haunting closing track, has earned her Song of the Year and Best Songwriter honors (with Todd Wright), and has also been covered by Celine Dion, in French.
When music consumers download their favorite titles from a record, it's easy to ignore the rest of the tracks. Although such technology frees artists to be more eclectic, it can also obscure the full range of their musicality. Given what Compared to What
reveals about Redmond's bold versatility and sparkling talent, it would be a real shame not to enjoy the whole ride.
Personnel: Mary Ann Redmond: voice, guitar; Paul Langosch: bass; Jay Cooley: keys; Dave Mattacks: drums, percussion; Dan Hovey: guitar; Bruce Swaim: tenor sax; John Jenson: trombone; Tim Stankey: trumpet.