Sheila Cooper: Tales of Love and Longing (2008)
This is a most impressive album from Sheila Cooper, accompanied by pianist Fritz Pauer. The identity issue here is further complicated by the fact that alto saxophonist Cooper/vocalist Cooper makes this recording a veritable trio album by virtue of her musicianship.
Cooper, originally from Canada, is now based in Vienna, Austria, pairing with Pauer for her third album. These ten tracks are mostly vocals with one unaccompanied instrumental beauty upon which Cooper plays an impressive version of Green and Hyman's "Body and Soul." On other tunes, Cooper switches between alto sax or vocals in the melody lines and solos.
The album begins with Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson's haunting "Winter Moon," which carries a jazz-associated reference to Art Pepper's The Art of the Ballad (Prestige, 1956), with Cooper playing very much in the same style as the late altoist. Following her alto solo, the unhurried vocal portion of the track complements the instrumental perfectly. On Cole Porter's "So In Love" the song begins a capella, with Pauer joining in after the first chorus on piano sans sax.
Cooper has a gifted vocal style, delivering these ten ballads with a great deal of intimacy and jazz phrasing. Her alto similarities to Lee Konitz are noticeable, while her vocal presentation could be compared to a number of jazz singers emeritus. It's hard not to draw a comparison to the June Christy and Stan Kenton's Duet (Capitol, 1955), in which a surprisingly restrained Kenton provided a soft piano cushion for vocalist Christy's cool delivery.
The album's singular purpose of presenting an aptly titled collection of love songs works consistently, although the piano solo on Berlin's "How Deep Is The Ocean" is taken up-tempo. The song selection includes one Cooper original "I Gravitate to You," in addition to the rarely heard vocal version of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," concluding on an optimistic note with the Kalmar/Ruby standard, "A Kiss to Build A Dream On."
Just what Sheila Cooper has planned for her next project is breathlessly awaited.
Track Listing: Winter Moon; He's Funny That Way; I'm A Fool to Want You; I Didn't Know About You; How Deep Is The Ocean; Lonely Woman; I Gravitate To You; Body And Soul; So In Love; A Kiss To Build A Dream On.
Personnel: Sheila Cooper: vocals, alto saxophone; Fritz Pauer: piano.