Jane Stuart: Don't Look Back (2011)
Jane Stuart is as complete a jazz singer as they come. With the timing of a tap dancer, the emotive responsiveness of a stage performer, a voice for the ages, and the experience to put it all together into one unified whole, Stuart deserves more exposure than she currently gets. To her credit, Stuart is able to bring all of these different elements into her performances due, in large part, to her vast experience in every one of these areas.
Her debut, I'm Beginning To See The Light (Self Produced, 2007), was a standards-based affair that touched on well-worn pieces from Duke Ellington to "Angel Eyes," but Stuart dug a bit deeper to find some of the material for Don't Look Back. At the suggestion of guitarist Dave Stryker, Stuart sought out some recordings of singer Irene Kral, which helped Stuart settle on some seldom-played pieces like Cole Porter's "Experiment" and Dave Frishberg's "Wheelers And Dealers."
While Stuart retains the core of the band from her debut, which included prime collaborator, pianist Rave Tesar, husband/drummer Rick De Kovessey, tenor saxophonist Frank Elmo, and bassists Kermit Driscoll and Sue Williams, she ups the ante here with the addition of Stryker and saxophonist Dick Oatts, a Vanguard Jazz Orchestra staple for over three decades. Stryker takes on multiple roles, adding some bluesy intrusions and a killer solo to Stuart's chilled out take on The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," providing some sensitive accompaniment during a duo reading of "You Are There." Oatts appears, most often, as soloist par excellence, but he's presented in a variety of manners: duking it out with Stuart, as saxophone and scat singing trade back and forth on "Who Will Buy?"; delivering some fluttery and engaging flute work on "Wheelers And Dealers"; providing saxophone obbligato-of-sorts at the outset of "Experiment"; and left to his own swinging devices on "Summertime."
While Stuart provides plenty of room for her soloists to take off, she still remains the star of her own show: delivering solid swing on "I Just Found Out About Love"; showing spunk and sass with "Wheelers And Dealers"; even managing to successfully turn some rarely covered Stevie Wonder into a Brazilian carnival concoction. Of the twelve pieces here, the title track is the only selection that really lacks spark, veering too closely to easy listening, but that's easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things. In other places, she crafts tender melodies with the utmost care ("You Are There") and adds just the right amount of steam to the oft-tackled "Summertime." With an album like Don't Look Back under her belt, vocalist Jane Stuart can surely look forward to more, well-deserved attention in the future.
Track Listing: I Just Found Out About Love; Experiment; Eleanor Rigby; Don't Look Back; Bird Of Beauty; Let It Come To You; Who Will Buy; Wheelers And Dealers; You Are There; Summertime; I'll Follow The Sun; I Didn't Know What Time It Was.
Personnel: Jane Stuart: vocals; Rave Tesar: keyboards, background vocals; Rick De Kovessey: drums, background vocals; Sue Williams: bass (1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 12); Kermit Driscoll: bass (3-6, 11); Emedin Rivera: percussion, whistles; Dave Stryker: guitar; Dick Oatts: alto sax, flute; Frank Elmo: tenor sax; Orlando Quinones: background vocals; Paige Sandusky: background vocals.
Record Label: Self Produced