How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Susannah McCorkle, who has been devoting her albums of late to the works of specific composers (Gershwin, Porter, Berlin), broadens the horizon on her 17th recording, exploring the many facets of love, happiness and heartbreak through the music and lyrics of writers as disparate as Strayhorn/Ellington, Django Reinhardt, Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, David Shire/Richard Maltby Jr. and Jerome Kern/Buddy DeSylva. McCorkle has some good–natured fun with Dave Frishberg’s clever entreaty, “I Want to Be a Sideman” (sideperson?), pays tribute to blues legend Bessie Smith with Perry Bradford’s “I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle” and to Ray Charles with Charles Calhoun’s “Losing Hand,” “waltzes” through Rodgers and Hart’s “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” and bows demurely to Mr. Berlin with the timeless “Blue Skies.” McCorkle, as anyone who has heard her is aware, blends a clear, sultry voice and superior articulation with enormous respect for the lyricist’s purpose, and like most outstanding singers, makes every phrase sound deceptively easygoing and casual. She’s not really a “Jazz singer,” more like “Jazz–influenced,” but surrounds herself with topnotch Jazz musicians including music director/pianist Farnham who wrote all but two of the splendid arragements (Rich DeRosa scored “Blue Skies” and “Something to Live For”). They leave space for some dandy solos, mainly by Oatts and Gisbert. But this is McCorkle’s show, and she makes the most of every enchanting moment, whether singing in English, French (“Nuages”) or Spanish (“Caminhos Cruzados,” “Insensatez,” “Wave”). Pleasant surprises? Try Shire/Maltby’s “Stop, Time“ (from the musical Big ) or the sunny homage to Billie Holiday, “Laughing at Life.” Another praiseworthy page in McCorkle’s consistently impressive resumé.
Track listing: Laughing at Life; Something to Live For; Look for the Silver Lining; Nuages; Caminhos Cruzados; I Wish I Were in Love Again; I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle; Losing Hand; I Want to Be a Sideman; Insensatez (How Insensitive); A Phone Call to the Past; Stop, Time; Wave; Blue Skies (59:19).
Susannah McCorkle, vocals; Allen Farnham, music director, piano; Al Gafa, guitar; Steve Gilmore, bass; Rich DeRosa, drums; Dick Oatts, tenor, soprano saxophone, alto flute; Jon Gordon, alto saxophone, flute; Greg Gisbert, trumpet, flugelhorn; John Fedchock, trombone.