Who says that good arrangements can't make or break an album? Especially on the initial outing from Kelly Harland, a fine fledgling vocalist from the active, burgeoning Northwest jazz scene getting her feet wet on her first record. The CD's opener, "Too Close for Comfort," is the beneficiary of an innovative, ear catching chart by pianist Ted Brancato, who plays his own model of counterpoint on this well known classic, giving it a special and rarely heard interpretation. In fact, playing against the singer and his fellow instrumentalist, as well as crafting the arrangements, is an area Brancato has clearly carved out to support this up and coming jazz diva. Listen to his two fisted piano accompaniment played against the soft, relaxed muted trumpet of Jay Thomas on "The Look of Love".
All the tracks are well-known standards, so the contents of the play list present no surprises here. What opens the eyes and ears, in addition to the charts, is Harland's very uncommon manner in applying her clear, unsullied, unmuddled delivery of each tune. Each tune gets a brand-new gloss from this fine singer and her quartet. With the ever increasing number of vocal releases, listeners are never sure what they are going to hear. In Harland's case, what you get is straightforward renditions of the musical agenda either as lovely, heart felt ballads, or jumping, but restrained, swingers. As for me, the result is the undisputed pleasure of highly engaging vocal jazz. It would behoove many singers from this generation of virtuosos to sit and listen to Harland to get an idea on how to proceed before they issue their own first efforts. Especially important is the rapport Harland establishes with her sidemen, such as with bass player Chuck Deardorf on "Too Late Now".This is good stuff which has earned a niche on the shelves of collections of jazz vocal fans.
Personnel: Kelly Harland - Vocals; Ted Brancato - Piano/Arranger; Chuck Deardorf -
Bass; Jay Thomas - Trumpet; Michael Spiro - Percussion; Dean Hodges -