Stevie Holland: Restless Willow (2004)
On her third album, singer Stevie Holland offers eleven well-balanced cabaret/jazz selections. She is accompanied by a good group that includes Kenny Washington, George Small, Tim Ferguson, Noel Sagerman, Sean Harkness, Steve Kroon, Joe Mennonna and a guest shot from David "Fathead" Newman. Holland has co-written and performed with producer Gary William Friedman in the past and her first album in 2000 consisted of all Friedman material. On this album, Friedman provides the arrangements and orchestrations including strings on some tracks.
As is the case for performances within this genre, the set list includes at least a few surprises to go with the standards like "Summertime," "Lush Life" and "It Might As Well Be Spring." Holland's first ballad is Francis Lai's "Love is Stronger Far Than We," lifted from his smash movie score of the mid-1960s film A Man And A Woman. Pierre Barouh wrote the original French lyrics and Jerry Keller provides the English version heard here. Barouh also acted in the film and delivered the delicious bossa "Samba Saravah." I think that we can count on the fingers of one hand the number of vocal takes of this song that have been made over the past four decades. Anyone remember Esther Satterfield's version from the mid-1970s?
Stevie Holland goes back to the early James Taylor songbook for "Sunny Skies" and maintains the optimistic lyrics in a jazz trio setting. "One Touch," a duet with Ruben Flores, could be borrowed from one of Mr. Friedman's off-Broadway productions and both vocalists make the most of the presentation. There's even a Norwegian song, "Jeg Elsker Dig," with English lyrics written by the singer.
The piece de resistence is the singer's version of Dave Frishberg's "Zoot Walks In," based upon the Zoot Sims-Gerry Mulligan jazz standard "Red Door" from the 1950s. Holland teases us with a slowed down intro but soon picks up the pace and adds a brief but effective scat break. David "Fathead" Newman appears on this track and while I never considered him a saxophonist in the Zoot Sims style, he easily fills the bill here. This number ends too soon and it would have been fun to have the musicians stretch out on this beyond Fathead's solo. One point of interest is Holland's lyric "...just a touch of tender madness..." which I always thought Frishberg wrote as "...just a touch of tenor madness..." Since I don't have any lyric sheets, the jury is still out on that statement.
The musicians do a fine job of accompanyment. Flutist Joe Mennonna does some nice work on "It Might As Well Be Spring" and guitarist Sean Harkness duets with Holland on "Stardust," Throughout the album Stevie Holland's delivery is strong and self-assured; she's a vocalist that I'd like to hear a lot more of.
Track Listing: It Might As Well Be Spring, Love is Stronger Far Than We, Summertime, How Long Has This Been Going On?, One Touch, Sunny Skies, Lush Life, Jeg Elsker Dig, Here's That Rainy Day, Zoot Walks In, Stardust
Personnel: Stevie Holland, vocals; George Small,piano; Tim Ferguson, bass; Kenny Washington or Noel Sagerman, drums; Sean Harkness,guitar; Steve Kroon, percussion; David "Fathead" Newman, tenor sax; Joe Mennonna,flute; Ruben Flores, vocal duet on "One Touch"; Arranged and Orchestrated by Gary William Friedman.