Kitty Margolis: Heart and Soul: Live in San Francisco (2005)
Kitty Margolis has a solid reputation and an enthusiastic fan base, and this recording shows why. A rock-solid singer with great chops, Margolis ranges through the Great American Songbook, throwing in a couple of curves on this live session.
In her notes, Margolis states that improvisation is at the core of her art. The air of spontaneity comes across in this setting and it is invigorating. The scat chorus on "Summertime lifts it above many of the rote versions that abound; the audience roars its approval for this tour de force performance.
The careful interaction among the musicians is also apparrent. As she notes, "I love this band. The rhythm section breathes along with the singer in the reveries of "Heart and Soul and "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year. Drummer Allison Miller impresses with her mixture of fire and filigree.
In the liner notes Will Friedwald writes, "Kitty Margolis is one of the best 'traditional' jazz singers I've heard in years. This focus on tradition, however, is both a strength and a weakness. Everything she sings is delivered with skill and feeling, but is that enough with repertoire that has been mined repeatedly over the years, especially by masters like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae, among others? There are so many distinguished songs in (and around) the classic tradition that don't get aired often enough that one wonders why the same tunes must be called on again and again.
What a treat, then, when she steps into Mose Allison's Southern-fried "Your Mind Is on Vacation. Margolis and pianist Michael Bluestein really dig into this rarely-heard witty, homespun blues. Likewise, she brings a bluesy ease to "I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco, a song that was meat and drink to McRae. Although she acquits herself well, she does not quite possess the song. But with these tunes she steps out of the tried and true.
George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers wrote a greater number of superior songs than the few usually brought out by singers today. The American Songbook is capacious, rich with worthy material. I'd love to hear Margolis go on a treasure hunt for these neglected gems (like Alec Wilder's "While We're Young on this session) to give them her considerable all.
Track Listing: Love Walked In, A Sleepin' Bee, Summertime, Heart and Soul, Your Mind Is on Vacation, Secret Love, Surrey with the Fringe on Top, Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year, I'm Always Drunk in San Francisco, My Favorite Things, While We're Young.
Personnel: Kitty Margolis, vocals; Michael Bluestein, piano; Jon Evans, bass; Allison Miller, drums.
Record Label: Mad-Kat