Anne Kerry Ford's third album, Weill
, is quite an accomplishment for the actress and singer. A Juilliard graduate, Ford has been pursuing her muse in films, theatre, and now the Cabaret music of German-born Kurt Weill. Weill fled pre-war Germany in the early '30s to avoid the anti-Semitic fever that was a symbol of the years to come in Europe. When Weill arrived in the United States it signified a new beginning during which he collaborated with lyricists including Ira Gershwin, Maxwell Anderson, Langston Hughes and Ogden Nash. The earlier stage of Weill's work was his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht; Ford covers several of those compositions on this album.
For those who are approaching this album with the hopes of hearing a jazz appreciation of Weill, go no further. This is a bravura Cabaret performance by the very talented Ford, who reminds one constantly of that touch of the Weimar Republic during those turbulent days, as well as Weill's more Americanized songs. The only two of these that you may be overly familiar with are "My Ship," from Lady in the Dark, and the very dramatic "Lost in the Stars," from the 1947 film of the same name. Despite the many years that have passed since the Weill catalogue was composed, it can still bear an immediate stamp on today's times. German singer Ute Lemperprobably the leading exponent of Weill's musichas transformed his music into an anti-Bush message quite effectively.
Ford not only has the singing, but the acting chops, to enact the dramatic Weill lyrics, particularly early works like "Pirate Jenny," from The Threepenny Opera, and "Surabaya Johnny," from Happy End. Half of the album is presented musically with the sound of the period accordion peeking around the edges of her vocal delivery, and with the subtle but constant piano of John Boswell, who also does wonders to make this music come alive once more. Recorded live by the WDR Orchestra, all arrangements are by the famed Roger Kellaway, who keeps the charts somewhere between the past and the present. For example, on "Song for the Rhineland", sung partially in German by Ford, swaths of big band jazz come creeping through without marring the final product.
Among some of the other musical highlights are a delicious duet with Brian Lane Green on "Tango Ballad," with Brecht's lyrics translated by Marc Blitzstein. Another standout is the opening song "I'm A Stranger Here Myself," which typifies the performances as well as a comedic recitation of Classical Russian Composers in trip-hammer time on "Tschaikowsky". A similar technique was used by entertainer Danny Kaye on his "Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians)," done as a similar tongue twister.
Anne Kerry Ford is also accompanied by several other American jazz musicians. Ford's husband, the blues/rock guitarist, Robben Ford, has provided support for her projects before and appears on many of Weill's tracks.
Personnel: Anne Kerry Ford: vocals; Roger Kellaway: arrangements; WDR Big Band; Robben Ford: guitar; John Boswell: piano; Vanessa Freebaim-Smith: cello; William Artope: trumpet; Dan Higgins: woodwinds; Gary Meek: woodwinds; Gary Denton: snare drum; John Boswell: vocals; Brian Lane Green: vocals.