Having reviewed favorably Susannah McCorkle's seventh Concord recording, in which she ably interpreted more than a dozen of the wonderful songs of Irving Berlin, I can do no less for No. 8, an earnest tribute to the music of the immortal George Gershwin. Simply put, McCorkle is a singer who leaves scant room for complaint. Although I really wouldn't call her a Jazz singer in the truest sense of the phrase (she takes few liberties with a melody), McCorkle emotes about as well as anyone, pouring heart and soul into every song as she reinforces the bonds with Jazz by employing some of the most accomplished sidemen within hailing distance of a studio. Like Rosemary Clooney, McCorkle is content for the most part to let them articulate the Jazz component, which isn't a bad idea when solo space is allocated among such heavyweights as Farnham, Potter, Sandke, Alden, Herwig and Dodgion. McCorkle's crystal-clear and sensuous contralto might best be described as sunny; she sings everything with the barest hint of a smile, even the plaintive ballads, and is a marvelous story-teller - especially virtuous in this context, as Gershwin and his several lyricists (including brother Ira) have compelling narratives to impart. McCorkle also includes the verses to a number of these timeless classics, a particularly welcome aspect of their over-all charm and originality. As with Berlin, she includes several lesser-known tunes, for instance "I Was Doing All Right" and the lovely closing medley, "Will You Remember Me" and "Drifting Along with the Tide." For me, the undoubted highlight of this consistently admirable set has to be McCorkle's informative singing/speaking introduction to "I Got Rhythm," but as almost everything else is a highlight too, this is simply a matter of opinion. Speaking of rhythm, matters are in capable hands there with Farnham, Alden, DeRosa and either Gilmore or Sarpola lending unwavering support. A thoroughly rewarding session by one of the country's finest pop/Jazz singers - or, as the brothers Gershwin would have summed it up, "'Swonderful."
They Can't Take That Away from Me; Who Cares?; Someone to Watch Over Me; It Ain't Necessarily So; How Long Has This Been Going On?; I Got Rhythm (introduction); I Got Rhythm; Love Walked In; I Loves You Porgy; They All Laughed; Summertime; 'S Wonderful; I Was Doing All Right; I Got Plenty o' Nothin'; medley: Will You Remember Me, Drifting Along with the Tide (61:27).
Susannah McCorkle, vocals; Allen Farnham, piano, synth; Chris Potter, tenor saxophone, alto flute; Howard Alden, guitar; Randy Sandke, trumpet, flugelhorn; Conrad Herwig, trombone; Jerry Dodgion, alto saxophone, alto flute; Rich DeRosa, drums; Steve Gilmore, Dick Sarpola, bass.