The best surprises are those that are entirely unexpected — and what a wonderful surprise this was. Phyllis Ford, an Englishwoman who has sung professionally since she was a teen–ager but hadn’t done so since moving to the States in 1970, has resumed her career with an album that is positively enchanting from end to end. In spite of some respectable solos by pianist Sabella (who also works his magic with a synthesizer to simulate on several tracks something approaching a full string orchestra), it’s not Jazz, but then it doesn’t have to be to please one’s ear. Three things place the session apart from many others: Ford’s unpretentious, straightforward delivery; her enormous respect for a lyric; and, above all, her exceptional choice of songs. Even those by the more well–known composers reside far from the beaten path — Rodgers and Hart’s “You’re Nearer,” Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green’s “Long Before I Knew You,” Frank Loesser/Burton Lane’s “Says My Heart,” Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster’s “There’s a Rising Moon,” Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen’s “The Impatient Years,” Styne/Bob Merrill’s “Music That Makes Me Dance,” and of course, the spellbinding title selection, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “My Own Space.” There are many other pleasures as well including “They Say It’s Spring,” “I’ll Never Stop Loving You,” “How Little We Know,” “I Wish I Knew,” “Let Me Love You,” a medley of Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz’s “Alone Together” and “Dancing in the Dark,” and two lovely poems by Hoagy Carmichael, “At Last” and “Something Tells Me,” set to music by Barry Manilow. There’s one more thing — Ford has a slight impediment pertaining to the letter “r” (think of Barbara Walters) but coming from her mouth that minuscule flaw sounds more charming than annoying. The rhythm section is another pleasant surprise (we assume that’s Ford’s husband playing drums) and Sabella even makes the synthesizer sound thoroughly agreeable (something I never thought I’d be confessing in print). This Ford drives like a BMW.
Track listing: My Own Space; They Say It’s Spring; You’re Nearer; At Last/Something Tells Me; Long Before I Knew You; Says My Heart; Alone Together/Dancing in the Dark; I’ll Never Stop Loving You; How Little We Know; There’s a Rising Moon; I Wish I Knew; The Impatient Years; Let Me Love You; Music That Makes Me Dance (41:16).
Phyllis Ford, vocals; Wayne Sabella, piano, synthesizer; Danny Hurd, piano (track 6); Timmy Givens, bass; Charles Ford, drums.
Contact: PC Ford Productions, P.O. Box 425, Merrick, NY 11566.