This album pays tribute to singers of the past who set the standards for today's crop of jazz and traditional pop singers. The technique vocalist Terry Blaine and stalwart pianist, Mark Shane, use is as fascinating as the tribute itself. On most of the cuts, Blaine overdubs her voice creating the impression that she is accompanied by the Boswell Sisters as she recreates each member of that group with their own distinctive voice. It's hard to believe these voices are coming from the same person. Some interesting and unlikely vocal combinations are the result. On "Looking at You", Cole Porter's under recorded gem, it is as if Lee Wiley is paired with the Boswell Sisters. "I'm No Angel" indicates what Mae West and the Boswell Sisters would have sounded like performing together. An unlikely combination, but a lot of fun to hear nonetheless. On "My Very Good Friend the Milkman", a 1935 composition made famous by the inimitable Fats Waller, Mark Shane does Waller's piano while Blaine and her "background singers" do a jivey version of this perky tune. While most of the cuts are indeed "hot" there are some nicely done slow ballads. Alan Vache's clarinet noodles behind Blaine's poignant delivery on "You Go to My Head" before he takes a nice melodic Goodman-like solo while recalls Bea Wain. Many other singers of the past are recalled on this entertaining album like Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee, Ethel Waters and Ella Fitzgerald with the album's kick off song "A-Tisket A-Tasket.
The best of intentions notwithstanding, no album, especially an adventurous one like this, makes it unless the supporting musicians are completely and unreservedly with the program. Blaine (and we) are especially lucky to have the high caliber of musicians on this album. All of them get a chance to show their wares. Vache's clarinet has already been mentioned. Then there's Joel Helleny trombone which takes on a Jack Teagarden Texas tailgate mode on "Dinah". Ed Polcer's cornet further adds to the musical authenticity of the1920's-40's this album recreates. Listen to him swing on "Concentratin' on You". Ed Metz's Dave Tough-like drums lay down that pulsating drum beat which was so characteristic of the period the album covers. But it is Mark Shane's piano which glues the whole thing together as his stylistically flexible piano fashions just the right mood for each song Blaine sings. That these two are musical soulmates is very evident.
Too Hot for Words serves to reminds one how enduring the work of the great stylists of the past (and some from the relatively recent past) was and the rich vocal legacy they left behind. And in the hands of talented professionals, the reminder is a very entertaining one indeed. Highly recommended.
Tracks:A-Tisket A-Tasket; Dinah; Looking at You; It's Too Hot for Words; My Very Good Friend the Milkman; It's You; A Ship without a Sail; The Joint Is Jumpin'; Concentratin'; on You; You Go to My Head; My Mother's Son-in-Law; I 'm No Angel; You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams; It's Easy to Remember; Repeal the Blues; Goodnight My Love