Alice Babs: Don't Be Blue (2002)
Over a career of more than 60 years, Swedish vocalist Alice Babs has applied her delectable vocal chords to a variety of euphony including church music by Mozart and Duke Ellington, she worked with the latter in the 1960's, yodeling, and just regular jazz. Her 4th album for the Prophone label falls into the latter category. Joined by long time composer and band leader, Nils Lindberg, and the group Third Saxophones, a quintet of sax players, and a rhythm section, Babs applies her unique vocal artistry to a play list offering a variety of tunes embracing classic standards to less familiar, but more contemporary material. After the first few measures on the initial track, one is amazed how fresh and vibrant Babs' voice sounds after all the years she has been performing. She was 77 years young when she cut this disk. Babs has achieved what is perhaps a singer's Nirvana. While losing none of her physical equipment and technique, she can bring to bear all the years of experience in perfecting her phrasing, dynamics and timing in whatever she's performing without worrying about her ability to hit the high notes. The latter are still reachable without any strain. Listen to her on "Takin'a Chance on Love" when she reaches the heavens with a stunning coda. And her timing is on the mark as she demonstrates often as on such up tempo tunes as "I Didn't Know What Time It Was". Lindberg contributes three songs to the program. His "Marit's Song" is opened with a baritone saxophone solo by Peter Gullen before Babs voice comes wafting in with lyrics that show her partiality for works of devotion. Another attractive track is "Thank You for Everything", a reworking of Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" with words added by Edmund Anderson.
Like a fine wine, Babs' voice has aged well, becoming both richer and mellower. And like that fine wine, it is meant to be savored by connoisseurs of the vocal art. Recommended. Prophone thoughtfully included the lyrics in the liner notes.
Track Listing: I Didn't Know What Time It Was; If I Were Eve; Portrait of Django; Song for the Dreamer; Baroque Stomp; As You Are; Takin' a Chance on Love; Marit's Song; I Could Write a Book; Vocalise; In a Mellow Tone; Thank You For Everything (Lotus Blossom)
Personnel: Alice Babs - Vocal; Nils Lindberg - Piano; Anders Paulsson - Soprano & Tenor Sax; Hans