Susanna Bartilla: I Love Lee (2012)
So which Lee does singer Susanna Bartilla love? Lee Marvin? Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors? Both men would be intriguing subjects for a tribute album, but of course the answer lies elsewhere. It's there in tiny letters on the cover of I Love Lee, but it's even more obvious from the opening bars of Kansas Joe McCoy's "Why Don't You Do Right." This is a tribute to the great Peggy Lee. It's a fitting tribute, too, with excellent song selection, superb delivery and, despite the presence of a terrific backing band, a focus on the vocals rather than extended instrumental breaks.
Bartilla was born in Germany but has lived and worked in France for some years. She has a pure, bright, voice with a distinctive vibrato, which gives a fascinating dynamic to her interpretations of these Songbook classicsa style more akin to chanteuses such as Edith Piaf rather than Lee's own approach.
This album appears within months of Swedish singer Jessica Pilnas' Norma Delores Egstrom: A Tribute To Peggy Lee (ACT, 2012). It's just a coincidence, but it does reflect the admiration in which Lee is still held. The two albums also show just how much scope Lee's music gives to artists; only the classic "Fever" appears on both recordings, while the distinctly different approaches of the singers and the contrasting instrumental lineups ensure that the albums complement each other beautifully. Pilnas was joined by vibraphone, trumpet and bass, giving her songs a bright, seductive, musical foundation. On I Love Lee Bartilla is accompanied by guitar, piano, bass and drums, and the result is a more blues-tinged feel, an earthier sensuality.
Bartilla is accompanied by the duo of bassist Claude Mouton and guitarist Sean Gourley on three tunes. Mouton's emphatic bass riff on "Fever" gives Gourlay a solid foundation for his rich-toned guitar, while the sparse bass and guitar lines on "Johnny Guitar"co-written by Lee and Victor Young for the 1954 film of the same nameenhance the melancholy lyrics, which Bartilla delivers with just the right level of pathos.
The addition of pianist Alain Jean-Marie and drummer Aldo Romano gives songs such as "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and the positive, optimistic "Almost Like Being In Love" an added drive. On "I'm Through With Love" and "Once In A While" the pair creates a late-night atmosphere for the torch song tales Bartilla tells.
Gourley is a splendid guitarist, and also demonstrates his vocal prowess when he joins Bartilla for "I Don't Know Enough About You." His raw, bluesy, voice is a perfect complement to Bartilla's on this cheery, upbeat, number which is further enlivened by Jean-Marie's piano contribution.
I Love Lee has the endorsement of Peggy Lee's granddaughter, Holly Foster Wells. It's pleasing to see such an acknowledgement of Bartilla's work, a formal recognition of her respect for Lee's legacy and the quality of her tribute.
Track Listing: Why Don't You Do Right; Golden Earrings; I'm Through With Love; Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good To You; Johnny Guitar; Fever; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Almost Like Being In Love; I Don't Know Enough About You; You Go To My Head; Once In A While.
Personnel: Susanna Bartilla: vocals; Sean Gourley: guitar, vocals (9); Alain Jean- Marie: piano; Claude Mouton: bass; Aldo Romano: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced