Carla White has been a staple of vocal jazz for almost 20 years. Yet it's the same old story. No matter how talented - - and she is high on the talent list - - White has had trouble getting her art put to disk. She had to go to Mexico for her last CD. Now this one is issued by a Japanese company. Half of the liner notes on my copy are in Japanese. It was recorded in 1996 but not released until last year! I guess we should be grateful someone has the smarts to record White, irrespective of what part of the world they come from.
More than any other of her albums that I am familiar with, White completely lets herself go, putting on the table all the varied facets of her vocal artistry. "Bittersweet", by Billy Strayhorn is out of his" Lush Life" bag. White adopts that world weary, "no matter what I do things are not going to get better" attitude for this rarely heard tune. "I Didn't Know About You", which she shares with tenor man Lew Tabackin, combines poetically sublime vocalizing with some dissonant tenor soloing. What would a Carla White album be without some knowledgeable scatting and other wordless vocalizing adventures. "This Can't Be Love" was selected for one of the scatting escapades. But what takes this track beyond the ordinary is the modern piano and tenor sax improvisions of Peter Madsen and Lew Tabackin, respectively. This track also helps to crystallize what's meant that the voice can be an instrument in the right hands as White's vocal offering is an integral cog in the group's musical machinery. This track features outstanding give and take between White, Dean Johnson (bass) and the bongos of Steve Berrios. White's voice takes on the trappings of a cool oboe on an almost recited "Love for Sale". Then she moves into almost nonsense syllabizing with gun shot drumming continuing to send things down the right rhythmic path. This an as intriguing an arrangement and presentation of this venerable Cole Porter warhorse as one will ever hear.
For more than an hour we are treated to one bewitching surprise after another with as distinctive, intelligent and compelling set of arrangements as have appeared on any vocal album for quite a while. You will punish yourself unnecessarily if you fail to try out Carla White's latest album. Drop by Carla's web site at www.jazzcorner.com/white.
Personnel: Carla White - Vocals; Peter Madsen - Piano; Dean Johnson - Bass; Tom Rainey - Drums; Lew Tabackin - Tenor Sax; Steve Berrios - Percussion