How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
There is a palpable richness and sense of luxury in Pamela Luss' debut album. Much of this impression is due to the full orchestration accompanying her. The backing is anything but stripped down, and it provides an elegant setting for Luss' voice to shine. Of course this would mean little if she did not have a vocal talent deserving of such opulence. At the same time, no matter how stunning a voice may be, it must complement the rest of the band.
Fortunately, Luss has the good taste to modulate her performance and opt for the subtle, minimalist turn, rather than attempt any rococo melismatic flailing. With such sumptuous orchestration, any vocal grandstanding would be as stomach-turning as a candy bar dipped in honey and drizzled with maple syrup.
Not surprisingly, her take of "My Funny Valentine is as urbane and elegant as one would expect. Her voice sounds girlish, but in no way naïve. There is the sense that one could not long remain green in the presence of such a sophisticated band. The eternal "At Long Last Love is dressed in a vintage sonic outfit accented with sumptuous flutes. The trick is that it sounds timeless and not merely dated.
It is such pitch-perfect taste that makes the album's one misstep, "Snow, so glaring. As soon as the clearance-rack synthesizers fade in, one feels a peculiar sense of dread. Its presence is so inexplicable that it seems necessary to explain away why it is included. Perhaps there was a need to pad out the running time or maybe it is the result of some ill-advised wager. Whatever the reason, its position at the heart of the album is a serious mood killer.
Luckily, it is a single major distraction on an album that is full of strong performances and boasts a striking sense of style. This truly winning debut bodes well for future efforts.
Track Listing: There's Something About You I Don't Know; Fools Rush In; At Long Last Love; Georgia On My
Mind; Snow; This Heart Of Mine; Evergreen; Fever; Embraceable You; When Summer Comes;
Waters Of March; My Funny Valentine.
Personnel: Pamela Luss: vocals; Vincent Herring: leader, alto saxophone, flute; Will Vinson: alto
saxophone, flute; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone;
Ned Rosenberg: bass clarinet; David Wakefield: French horn; Earl Gardner, Tom Harrell,
Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Steve Turre: trombone; Gary Fisher, Barney McAll, Mulgrew Miller:
piano; Romero Lubambo, Russell Malone: guitar; Kim Clarke, Richie Goods, Nilson Matta,
Tom Pietrycha: bass; Dudka Da Fonseca, Greg Hutchinson, EJ Strickland: drums; Danny
Sadownick: percussion; Paulette McWilliams, Cindy Mizelle, Sharon Bryant: background