Hilary Kole: Haunted Heart (2009)
This listener can't recall in years so smashing a solo CD debut as this winner. Hilary Kole's lengthy runs in cabaret and club appearances with song revues "Our Sinatra" and "Singing Astaire," singing some of the best of the American Songbook, have served her well. The mix here is flawless, ranging from such evergreens as Rodgers-Hart's "There's A Small Hotel" to worthy but lesser known gems such as '40s swinger "'Deed I Do" and Bob Haymes' "You For Me." What's most impressive is how Kole inhabits each with a thoroughness and emotional authenticity that belies her young years.
Her delivery of "Better Than Anything," (heretofore owned by wonderful Irene Kral), is breezily knowing. Tedd Firth (piano) and Mark McLean (drums) make for swinging easy company throughout the set. With Alec Wilder and Loonis McGlohon's "Blackberry Winter," it's the American art song at its no-frills finest, evoking the straight- to-the-heart sound of the late Nancy LaMott.
The range of what she can do with a lilting, warm soprano is evident as Kole tosses off "You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in," warbling Oscar Brown, Jr.'s bit of Freudian storytelling, "The Snake." That segues into a dark night take on Tom Waits' toughly nostalgic "Old Boyfriends." Particularly fine on musings from the trenches of love, if Kole's shrewd, swinging take on "How Am I To Know" isn't enough, just wait for her battered but still standing rendition of Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do."
Kudos to all, including producer John Pizzarelli. This is a memorable first effort.
Track Listing: It's Love; There's A Small Hotel; 'Deed I Do; I Didn't Know About You; Better Than Anything; Like A Lover; Blackberry Winter; The Snake; Old Boyfriends; How Am I To Know; What'll I Do; You For Me; Haunted Heart.
Personnel: Hilary Kole: vocals; Tedd Firth: piano; Paul Gill: bass; Mark McLean: drums; John Pizzarelli: guitar.