Brimming with pop and jazz standards, The Lyric
(winner of the BBC's 2006 Jazz Album of the Year award) launches with Brit tenor sax man Jim Tomlinson and trio's warm breezy take on "Manha de Carnival, on which pianist David Newton, bassist Dave Chamberlain and drummer Matt Skelton provide very tasty punctuation.
Easy bossa is a pleasantly recurring flavor throughout this set. A more heated, undulating "My Heart Belongs to Daddy allows Tomlinson and his American wife, Stacey Kent, to get fresh with that sly old Cole Porter chestnut. Kent's light, airily girlish voice, with a touch of healthy seductiveness, is perfectly complemented by Tomlinson's soulful, warmed-up honey tenor sax.
That same happy sympatico is evident throughout; Kent sings on all but two of the sides. She has a delicate, lyric clarity and her swinging buoyancy radiates smiles for miles. Even the meditative "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life still retains a touch of infectious optimism.
As evidenced during their recent engagement at Feinstein's, Tomlinson and Kent make for a swellegant couple. Among current younger singers, Kent's way with the Great American Songbook puts her at the front of the class. The set's opener, the slow, thoughtful bossa "So Many Stars, was followed by a bright and merry charge into Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cockeyed Optimist. Kent's grasp of the classics is intuitive and total, as evident on these two or a romantically wistful take on Irving Berlin's "They Say That Falling In Love is Wonderful or a bossa-styled meandering through "It Might As Well Be Spring." Plus she manages to use her slightly honey and sand-sprinkled voice to float over a song without ever making it sound superficial.
Two songs particularly anchored the Feinstein's set. Jay Livingston and Ray Evans' "Never Let Me Go was tender and tremulous, with especially rich interplay between Kent and Tomlinson. A complete contrast and no less deeply felt was Lerner and Loewe's "Show Me, from My Fair Lady, which blazed with a ladylike charm yet very adamant demand for action from her fella. Neither song is included on this album, a lapse which needs to be corrected on their next recording.
Personnel: Jim Tomlinson: tenor saxaphone and percussion; David Newton: piano; Dave Chamberlain:
double bass; Matt Skelton: drums; Stacey Kent: vocals (except 1,10), whistling (11).