Terence Blanchard: Let's Get Lost
As a follow-up to his previous album, Wandering Moon, Terence Blanchard has chosen to de-emphasize his compositional skills and to honor the often-overlooked popular songs written by Jimmy McHugh. That would be a fine project for a jazz musician were he or she to reinterpret the tunes, and some of that does occur on Let's Get Lost. However, many of its arrangements are straightforward, perhaps with the underlying addition of bass lines to elevate the tunes, as pianist Edward Simon and bassist Derek Nievergelt do so well on "Let's Get Lost" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."
Interestingly, Simon's two arrangements offer the most original approaches to the McHugh standards. His "I'm In The Mood For Love" is launched with a rumbling minor-keyed propulsion that, soon enough, settles into a snappy 4/4 swing, the meters alternating for different perspectives upon the tune. And Simon's arrangement of "Exactly Like You" once again positions Blanchard's trumpet and Brice Winston's tenor sax in close harmony over stretched phrasing before allowing Blanchard to break loose into the swing he seems to prefer. The resulting solos extend the challenge of the first chorus by freeing Winston and Blanchard to improvise around the edges of the tune instead of within its often-heard center.
The arrangements for the singers, though, are more conventional, leaving the attention-getting skills of their voices to sustain interest. And often, that works, particularly on the two tracks that feature Cassandra Wilson. On "Don't Blame Me," she projects words in a broken fashion as if finding nuance in each one, her rich and sultry voice instantly recognizable as she paces the melody languidly behind the beat. Wilson encouraged Blanchard to record "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" despite his reluctance stemming from deference to Louis Armstrong, and yes, Wilson reinterprets the song, staying close to the melody and still adding flair and originality.
Dianne Reeves participates on the CD as well, but the sometimes overwhelming energy of her live performances are missing on Let's Get Lost. "I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me" seems to be pitched too low when Reeves sings "I can't believe..." at the bottom end of her range. On "Can't Get Out Of This Mood," she sings as if fronting a big band, but still, her dynamics are subdued and her freedom to stray from the melody is constrained. Diana Krall stops in to sing the title track of the album, and the subtlety of her implicit swing comes through in swells and fades and anticipation of the beat.
The fact that Jane Monheit is included on two of the tracks confirms the conclusion that the concept for Let's Get Lost is the teaming of the top female jazz singers with Blanchard. All but Monheit has won a Grammy, but then she's only 23but highly promotable. And all but Monheit have developed distinctive voices from years of dues-paying. "Too Young To Go Steady" had the potential to inject some irony into her performance. However, Monheit's earnest, right-on-pitch delivery makes one wonder if irony is involved after all, as it is on Kurt Elling's This Time It's Love, where the song appears several tracks away from his wackier version of Freddie Hubbard's "Freddie's Yen For Jen."
The constant element throughout Let's Get Lost, besides McHugh's tunes of optimism, is Blanchard's voice on trumpet as he weaves in commentary during the singing. In that respect, his role is similar to that of tenor sax players like Lester Young or Houston Person. However, Blanchard explores the harmonies of the arrangements instead of responding to the singers' emotions, and when he performs without singers, his solos break loose as if unfettered.
Let's Get Lost provides an effective vehicle for touring and radio play, one singer substituted for another according to availability. But all of the singers and musicians involved in the recording are inexplicably restrained and have done better elsewhere.
Track Listing: Let's Get Lost, Too Young To Go Steady, You're A Sweetheart, I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me, I'm In The Mood For Love, Don't Blame Me, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Exactly Like You, Can't Get Out Of This Mood, Lost In A Fog, On The Sunny Side Of The Street.
Personnel: Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Diana Krall: vocals; Jane Monheit: vocals; Dianne Reeves: vocals; Cassandra Wilson: vocals; Brice Winston: tenor sax; Edward Simon: piano; Derek Nievergelt: bass; Eric Harland: drums.