A sure-footed singer possessing a mature sound and an attractive, lived-in voice, Deborah Latz uses Toward Love as an opportunity to explore a traditional set of popular standards with satisfying results. A swinging "It Had to Be You sets the pace with the band providing great ballast for her vocal. What a treat it is to hear drummer Jimmy Wormworth motor the proceedings on brushes.
The ability to imbue a song with honest emotion informs Latz's forthright reading of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Her touching reprise after Timo Elliston's "How Insensitive solo begins at near whisper. The pianist solos with Jimmy Rowles-like flair on "Avril à Paris, a welcome respite from the singer's far too cute opening chorus. Singing the song in French is fine, but hamming it up is a wrong turn. Luckily, on the out chorus, she sings with élan and somewhat redeems the earlier vocal misstep.
At her best she is capable of communicating the complex character as a song, as on "Night and Day. The performance is the epitome of classic chamber-jazz swing, all hands working together, generating an irresistible rhythm which enhances Latz's winning way with Cole Porter's ode to love. Singer and band bring distinction to another gem from the Great American Songbook, "I Only Have Eyes for You. "Lover Man, too, is tender, but at a key moment she sings the wrong word and it threatens to break the spell.
There are other uneven moments, like "Bluesette, taken too fast for her to negotiate the words, melody and changes without sounding hurried. A great song, unfortunately, receives a sub-par performance, something another take might have remedied. On "Gone with the Wind, she shakes off a stiff opening once she scats.
Latz, more often than not, though, sings within herself; she is able to project her individual voice without obscuring the material. Sensitive interaction among the musicians, including guitarist Ben Sher and bassist Bob Bowen, contributes significantly to the success of Toward Love.
Track Listing: It Had To Be You; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; How Insensitive; Gone with the Wind; Avril a Paris; Lover Man; I Only Have Eyes for You; Night and Day; The Thrill Is Gone; Bluesette
Personnel: Deborah Latz, vocals; Timo Elliston, piano; Bob Bowen, bass; Jimmy Wormworth, drums; Ben Sher, guitar