There are several things to like about vocalist Jan Eisen's debut recording Summer Me, Winter Me
. First, the use of a guitar quartet in place of the standard piano ensemble. Guitarist Jamie Findlay is more than up to the challenge of comping, playing rhythm guitar and taking some very effective solos beginning with a mid-tempo version of Rose/Hirsch's "Deed I Do". He continues on an up-tempo take on the Rodgers and Hart "With A Song In My Heart," as well as a ballad version of "Darn That Dream."
Second is Eisen's vocal presentation and choice of material. Jan Eisen is one of those vocalists that one does not have to concentrate on to hear the lyrics. She is gifted with a bright voice and an ability to give clarity to the respective songwriter's words. Above all, she can make the necessary adjustments for ballads and swing treatments. While some of these songs may be close to outwearing their welcome in the Great American Songbook, Eisen invests them with new energy and also selects some unorthodox tunes.
Finally, it was Eisen's decision to record this album in "real time." That is to say, she has all of the musicians in one room, no separate booths, no headphones and afterwards no overdubbing or manipulating the musical results of the session. I don't know how often this actually happens but the predetermined decision is a most positive aspect of Eisen's philosophy.
Opening with the Legrand/Bergman "Papa, Can You Hear Me" from Yentl, I can safely say that I haven't heard this tune open any jazz album. It is presented basically as a voice-guitar duet, as is the Van Heusen/DeLange "Darn That Dream" later on the album. On both tracks, guest percussionist Alex Acuna adds to the coloration with some subtle work. "You Must Believe in Spring" is one of several songs from the Michel Legrand songbook that are presented on the album, once again in a largely guitar-voice format. This one was co-written by filmmaker Jacques Demy and lifted from his film The Young Girls of Rochfort. The other Legrand compositions were co-written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman ("Loving Me, Loving You, Loving Me" and "Summer Me, Winter Me").
Eisen provides the inclusion of the lengthy verse on Gershwin's "Isn't It a Pity," and a bossa nova treatment of the title tune. One puzzling selection was the arrangement of the Derose/Parish "Deep Purple" with a Latin patina. It seems jarring and counters the melody of the tune. Perhaps the purpose was to set up the album closer, Perez Prado's 1955 hit, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White." There must have been scads of recordings of this song, especially during the late '50s and '60s, but have you ever heard the lyrics that have been set to this Antoine Leonardt/Marcel Louiguy/Mack David tune?
Some mention should be noted for bassist Benjamin May's creative use of cello on "Loving Me, Loving You, Loving Me" and then again on "Isn't It A Pity."
Personnel: Jan Eisen: vocals; Jamie Findlay: guitar; Benjamin May: bass, cello; Kendall Kay: drums; Alex Acuna: percussion.