Jeanne Lee & Ran Blake "The Newest Sound Around" (1961) and Tina May & Nikki Iles "Change Of Sky" (1997)
In the thirty-six years between the two albums 'tradition' has grown to be a marketing concept aimed at a diminishing audience, ring-fenced and venerated. Lee and Blake, clearly not the most credulous worshippers at the altar of tradition, gof in for the re-invention of songs, and whilst the work of May and Iles is efficient enough, they proceed with too much reverence for tradition to really deconstruct songs in the way that, say, Thelonious Monk would one of his own compositions in the course of a piano solo. Arguably this is the consequence of technique triumphing over ideas -for all of their idiosyncrasies and comparative lack of pianistic technique in particular, Lee and Blake bring more to their interpretation of songs than May and Iles do, and whilst both Lee and May are more than competent singers, it's Lee who has the greater feeling for lyrical interpretation. Coming back to the period between the two albums, it might be said that in it jazz has entered the museum at the same time as it has continued to evolve and thrive as an art form. The paradox, then, is that the product of 1961 seems more vibrant than the product of 1997, which if nothing else confounds the idea of relentless progress.