Andrea Wolper: Parallel Lives (2011)
Andrea Wolper isn't just a jazz singer. Hearing her mid-song monologue with bass accompaniment, during her own "The Girls In Their Dresses," makes it clear that she's actually an actress choosing to communicate through the medium of jazz, and an utterly original one at that. On Parallel Lives, Wolper explores the music of Joni Mitchell, Hoagy Carmichael, Richard Rodgers, and Duncan Sheik, to name just a few, and she brings a dramatic flair to the work of each and every artist that she encounters.
Wolper is no purist, but her music is all delivered with purity and a sense of purpose that speaks volumes about the confidence she has in her artistry. She swings in snazzy fashion on Mitchell's "Be Cool," as she trades solos with guitarist Michael Howell, and reaches back to the singer/songwriter's beginnings with a breathtaking performance of "Song To A Seagull," delivered atop an impressionistic backdrop. While Wolper revels in the excitement that's created during many of these songs, she's at her absolute best in calmer environments, with the pared-down accompaniment on "Skylark" and "Maple Sugar Boy."
The only number that really fails to connect is "Blue Wind." The introduction is a collage of random sounds and, while interest is perked with the seemingly intentional clashes between Howell and pianist Kris Davis, the arrangement seems to lack the focus found on the other songs. Thankfully, eleven other fully-formed selections testify to Wolper's abilities and musical vision.
While Davis and Howell provide the harmonic underpinnings for Wolper's delicious readings, bassist Ken Filiano proves to be the most interesting musician on the date. His arco solo on "Why Aren't You Laughing?" is one of the most intriguing bass solos in recent memory, and he brings a sense of utter originality to an instrument that often plays the role of straight man on jazz recordings.
Parallel Lives is proof that fine singers need to live within the confines of a song in order to fully understand and communicate its intention, and Wolper makes herself at home on nearly every number in this collection.
Track Listing: Song To Seagull; The Girls In Their Dresses; Why Aren't You Laughing?; Skylark; Who Will Buy?; June Rose; Maple Sugar Boy; Blue Wind; Be Cool; Something Good; Waiting For Winter; Save Your Love For Me.
Personnel: Andrea Wolper: vocals; Kris Davis: piano; Michael Howell: guitar; Ken Filiano: bass; Michael TA Thompson: drums.