Veteran jazz singer Ranee Lee celebrates the Great Canadian Songbook with her session of songs by some of Canada’s noted composers and lyricists. They’re songs familiar to the world. Lee interprets them with a sensitive ear.
Ballads, such as “Maybe September,” reveal her strongest quality. She dances her way through our hearts with expression that comes from deep within. As she sings Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom” a cappella with a talented vocal ensemble from McGill University, Lee convinces. Her genuine reflections carry us home.
Tradition takes a detour on “Spinning Wheel,” as Lee introduces her grandson, with his amplified rap vocal conclusion to the song. His finale makes a better impression of the classic rock tune than Lee’s, since her voice lacks the vibrancy required to return David Clayton-Thomas’s original favor. The singer is much better with piquant melodies such as “Swinging Shepherd Blues” or “Waltz for Debby.” Her voice carries a charming quality that flaunts the blues all over the place. Lee’s wordless vocals and lyric interpretations set the house a-swinging.
Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” receives a slow, reverent characterization that drags slightly. “My Beat” and “Undun” drive straight ahead with ambitious force and a perky personality. Several of these classic tunes, however, rely solely on their melody for effect. Without significant partner solos and without vocal improvisation, they meander somewhat. With Lee’s strong background in visceral vocal interpretation, the program works better with blues-based swingers.
Personnel: Ranee Lee- vocals; Richard Ring- guitar; John Sadowy, Brian Dickinson- piano; Zach Lober, Mike Downes- bass; Dave Lang- drums; Ron Di Lauro- trumpet; Richard Beaudet- soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Darrell Henegan, Jr.- rap on