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CD/LP/Track Review

Leila Percy and Muriel Havenstein: Those Sirens of Swing

By Published: August 1, 2000
The Sirens of Swing, Leila Percy and Muriel Havenstein, are well established in the small, but flourishing jazz scene in Maine. They got together with some up North friends and recorded this very attractive album. Pianist Muriel Havenstein's jazz roots go back to the 1940's when she was a member of Estelle and Her Brunettes. Jimmy Lyden on bass has been playing since 1970, while drummer Les Harris, Jr. is a Berklee College of Music graduate and a regular member of the Tom Gallant Trio. Reedman Charlie Jennison has worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole and Buddy DeFranco. Bandleader and self styled "canary" Leila Jane Percy's career has seen her doing everything from Broadway tunes to country. She took on Big Band jazz when she joined Randy Bean & Co. and assumed leadership of that outfit upon the demise of Mr. Bean.

Percy sings on most cuts with an alto voice with limited range, but with an excellent understanding of the lyrics and the ability to convey her feeling for the music to the listening audience. These songs clearly are familiar territory to her and her interpretations are heartfelt and romantic. Listen to her on a very wistful "What'll I Do" and how she deftly weaves in and out with Jimmy Lyden's bass on "Shiny Stockings." This cut includes an inspired improv by Charlie Jennison's tenor as he recalls "You'd Be So Easy to Love" during his solo. Charlie Jennison's tenor assumes Coleman Hawkins huskiness to it on "Indian Summer." >Peel Me a Grape" is not done in its usual "if you want me you better start peeling now" style a la Anita O'Day, but rather as someone who wants the fruit because she's really hungry.

The album is also a fortuitous mix of vocals and instrumentals. Jennison's sax is featured on Benny Carter's lovely "Only Trust Your Heart" and Havenstein's piano is spotlighted on "You Don't Know What Love Is". Havenstein can get down with most piano styles doing a respectable stride on "There's a Small Hotel" and swinging on "Hey Good Lookin'". But her major contribution is providing the framework for Percy's vocalizing. The rhythm of Lyden and Harris on bass and drums, respectively, lay down a dependable foundation for the proceedings and perform admirably when called on to solo. For me, the tour de force is the group's rendition of one of the most recorded songs of all times, Mr. Carmichael's "Stardust" where Percy is aided and abetted by Havenstein and the Jennison flute. This album is an entertaining 60 minutes plus of music and is recommended.

Tracks:There's a Small Hotel; Indian Summer; Yesterdays; My Funny Valentine; Shiny Stockings; Willow Weep for Me; What a Difference a Day Made; You Don't Know What Love Is; What'll I Do; Peel Me a Grape; Only Trust Your Heart; Stardust; Hey Good Lookin'Tracks:Leila Jane Percy-vocals/band leader; Muriel Havenstein-piano; Jimmy Lyden-bass; Les Harris, Jr.-drums; Charlie Jennison-tenor saxophone/flute

Record Label: Invisible Music Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream



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