Sylvia Brooks: Restless (2012)
Co-producers Brooks, Jerry Bergh and saxophonist Kim Richmond were certainly aware of the cinematic direction the songs were taking, as the opening "'Round Midnight" initially unfolds with ambulance sirens. The tune is given a James Bond kick as Brooks' larger-than-life voice recalls the booming soul of Shirley Bassey. The music sounds big, too, enveloping the speakers with its soaring horns and pounding drums. By the second cut, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Brooks plumbs the emotional depths of the material; there is a plaintive romanticism to her vocal work here that is absolutely dazzling.
While many other jazz singers are reluctant to expand their range, Brooks shows remarkable courage in continually pushing herself. The boldly self-confident swagger of "You Go to My Head" is miles apart from the heartbroken fragility of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"; nevertheless, Brooks doesn't lose any sharpness in her stylistic shifts. The quirky stop-start rhythms of "Trouble" may seem out of place from the lush, rain-swept balladry on the record. That's probably because it's not really jazz; the song is an original from Over the Rhine, first heard on The Trumpet Child (Great Speckled Dog, 2007), and echoes CIncinatti duo's alt-rock sensibilities. The gorgeous "Blues in the Night" is, on the other hand, more characteristic of the record's moody crooning.
For an independent project, Restless is certainly ambitious; this is no paint-by-numbers jazz vocal showcase, but a fully realized movie score.
Track Listing: 'Round Midnight; Boulevard of Broken Dreams; You Go to My Head; Trouble; Last Tango; Be Cool; Blue Alert; Blues in the Night; You're My Thrill; Stormy Weather; I'm a Fool to Want You.
Personnel: Sylvia Brooks: vocals; Rich Eames: piano; Jeff Colella: piano; Kevin Axt: bass; Chris Colangelo: bass; Kendall Kay: drums; Steve Hernandez: percussion; Brian Kilgore: percussion; Harry Scorzo: violin, bass violin; Jeff Gauthier: violin; Jamey Havorka: trumpet; George McMullen: trombone; Kim Richmond: saxophone; Alex Budman: saxophone; Ron Kolina: harmonica.
Record Label: Sylvia Brooks Music