Sara Leib: Secret Love (2012)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
A cursory glance at the track listing for Secret Love may paint it as another simple celebration of standards, but that's not the case. Singer Sara Leib takes the road less traveled by delivering ear-opening, metrically twisted, stylistically broad interpretations of oft-covered classics with a to-die-for cast of cutting-edge collaborators.
Leib, who holds degrees in music from the New England Conservatory and the University of Southern California, first entered the fray with It's Not The Moon (Self Produced, 2003). Since that time, she's basically been an under-the-radar talent and regional presence in California, but her status may well change with this release. Hooking up with a proper label and joining forces with modern marvels like pianist Taylor Eigsti, drummer Eric Harland and saxophonist Dayna Stephens will likely go a long way in drawing more attention her way. Of course, the attention would be meaningless if she didn't have anything to offer, but that's not a problem. Leib is a captivating talent, possessing admirable arranging skills and a flexible voice capable evoking smiles, sighs or sadness, depending on the topic at hand.
On Secret Love, Leib turns the notion of standards-based normalcy on its head. "It Might As Well Be Spring" is done in eleven, "Willow Weep For Me" gets a funky make-over and "Some Day My Prince Will Come" takes on a scent of the exotic when it undergoes some welcome metric, harmonic and melodic alterations. All the while, Leib sings with assurance and verve, making this music seem far less complex than it actually is.
While singers working in the jazz medium must deal with the repertoire that's endemic to this area, Leib does it on her own terms, maintaining a connection to her time. She performs a modern-day Bob Dylan classic, "To Make You Feel My Love," in poppy fashion and delivers a slick slice of urban funk with a '70s sheen in the form of Ben Harper's "With My Own Two Hands."
Leib understands the roles of tradition and innovation but, more importantly, she understands where the two should meet and when they can part ways amicably. Secret Love is a sign of all that is right about vocal jazz today.
Track Listing: It Might As Well Be Spring; Night And Day; Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye; So This Is Love; The Thrill Is Gone; With My Own Two Hands; To Make You Feel My Love; Someday My Prince Will Come; The Way You Behold; Willow Weep For Me; Secret Love; All I Have To Do Is Dream.
Personnel: Sara Leib: voice; Taylor Eigsti: piano and keyboards (1, 2, 4-6, 10); Aaron Parks: piano and keyboards (3, 7-9, 11, 12); Harish Raghavan: bass; Eric Harland: drums; Dayna Stephens: tenor saxophone; Richie Barshay: percussion, tabla.
Record Label: OA2 Records