- Freddy Cole-In the Name of Love (Telarc Jazz CD-83545)
- Maria Muldaur-A Woman Alone With the Blues...Remembering Peggy Lee (Telarc Jazz CD-83568)
This March, Telarc Jazz releases two high profile jazz vocal offerings. Singer/Pianist Freddy Cole releases his third offering for the label, In The Name of Love. On her fourth solo release singer Maria Muldaur stands front and center of her major influence, the late Ms. Peggy Lee, and emits A Woman Alone With the Blues. I want to stop short of saying that now two discs released at the same time could be more different, but it is something close to that.
Freddy Cole, younger brother of Nat King Cole, has been making a refined brand of jazz vocal/piano since the 1950s, when he had some minor hits ("The Jokes on Me," "Whispering Grass"), but took twenty years to acquire his own shadow. He entered the musical fray permanently in 1978, when he released One More Love Song (Decca 5300). Perhaps his finest offering to date was the superb I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me (Sunnyside 1054, 1990). Since that time, Mr. Cole has recorded for Muse and Fantasy, issuing what is currently considered his masterpiece, Love Makes the Changes (Fantasy 9681, 1998) on the latter label.
Mr. Cole is credited with three releases on Telarc Jazz, including the currently considered In The Name of Love. Mr. Cole turns his attention to some enduring contemporary pop classics on this new release, crooning as if in the same breath Boz Scagg's "Harbor Lights," Smokey Robinson's "Just to See Her," and Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately, How Much I love You?" As the reader might surmise, the disc orbits about love songs, just as his most successful recordings have. The disc is produced and arranged by Jason Miles, who produces a very slick package, perhaps too slick (for this critic's taste). Miles brings on the best in the studio business to support Mr. Cole and even arranges a duet with the new girl on the block, Jane Monheit. But no matter, Mr. Cole is no mere clone of his famous brother. No, he is very much a central talent. One I suspect is better treated in a gentle acoustic jazz setting, but nevertheless is still very effective here.
Maria Muldaur's new release is another matter altogether. A Woman Alone With the Blues, Ms Muldaur's tribute to the great Peggy Lee is the most highly focused recording of her career. Since assaulting the charts with the wildly popular "Midnight at the Oasis" in the mid-1970s, she has made the effort to address every genre of indigenous American music, and for the most part, has succeeded grandly. Ms. Muldaur has recorded several previous disc for Telarc, all swing in the Jazz-Blues sea. Here, backed by a standard acoustic jazz combo, Ms. Muldaur urgently sighs Lee's greatest hit, "Fever," with a simmering sensual abandon. "Black Coffee" comes off in much the same way. Ms. Muldaur does not cloud her tribute with strict constructionist readings of the Lee Canon, but neither does she stray far from the intended mood.
Ms. Muldaur's band perfectly accents her approach. They provide a traditional support with a light bouquet of modern performance and sonics. the sum of all parts is a superbly focused and performed vocal recording paying homage to one of the greatest female singer.
Both discs represent opposite spectrums of the Telarc galaxy, one smooth and refined, and one authentic and earthy. Own them both, that's what I say.