Taking up the instrument at the age of 13, Cynthia Sayer is now a top jazz banjo player in jazz rivalling Bela Fleck. Combining her banjo with a straight forward and sometimes rough and ready singing style, Sayer has parlayed this favorable marriage of skills into a very successful career, having performed with many top flight jazz artists, appearing live at many venues - - including the White House - - and working on the sound tracks of films like Purple Rose of Cairo
. She is also a member of Woody Allen's New Orleans Jazz Band.
Sayer left nothing behind in the studio in cutting this fine album. The performances recall New Orleans style jazz. But they also capture the ambience of performances at bars and saloons, dance halls and old time vaudeville and minstrel shows. Sayer expands the banjo beyond those tunes where one expects to hear the instrument (and there are those on this disc). She plays by herself on You, "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" and "Always", playing her plectrum banjo with a style and elegance normally not heard from past and current practitioners (few as they may be) of the instrument. She also is adept with a tenor guitar, which sounds like a softer version of the banjo.
The players who accompanied Sayer to the studio are major contributors to the success of this CD. Clarinetist Kenny Davern appears on six tracks. His opening on "More Than You Know" with Jay Leonhart playing bass underneath is a joy to hear. The mandolin, rarely heard in jazz these days, in the hands of Barry Mitterhoff, gives a fresh sound to songs like "April Showers" and "You'll Never Know". Joe Ascione's drums, with Leonhart's bass, provide a solid rhythmic underpinning for the set. The play list is a fortuitously selected agenda of tunes. There are old standbys and some songs like "Rialto Ripples" which are not performed much anymore. Traditional pop is represented by blasts from the past like "Don't Fence Me In". This album is a generous 64 minutes of just plain fun and is strongly recommended. Visit Sayer's Internet page at http://home.earthlink. net/~cynth.com.
Personnel: Cynthia Sayer - Plectrum Banjo/Tenor Guitar/Vocals; Kenny Davern - Clarinet; Bob Mastro - Violin; Barry Mitterhoff - Mandolin; James Chirillo - Guitar; Jay Leonhart - Bass; Joe Ascione - Drums