Adi Braun The Rules of the Game
Let us now pause to take assessment of another new vocalist, Canadian Adi Braun, who impressed with her 2003 debut, Delishious. The same trio of pianist Doug Riley and veterans Steve Wallace (bass) and Terry Clarke (drums) is once again on board for this album, with the addition of Perry White on tenor sax.
Adi Braun, originally from Germany, comes from a family of professional singers. Her father sang in various opera companies. She relocated to Canada and evidently has a slight accent. You'd never know that from this recording. She has spent the past few years cultivating cabaret/jazz vocal credentials in Toronto and Montreal and appeared in November, 2005 at Joe's Pub in NYC. According to the liner notes, her taste includes a number of jazz singers, but her primarily influences are Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Lotte Lenya.
This new album is a well-presented cabaret/jazz set, as judged by song selection, cleanly articulated delivery, and, yes, the ability to swing, on at least a limited basis. I do have some reservations on the above, but more about that later. This is the type of hour that is favorably greeted by cabaret enthusiasts: new songs, a few standards, and a lively musical backdrop.
The opening title tune is one of the best ballads on the album, beginning with a full verse. (Do they still write verses anymore?) I was startled to find out that this is a new composition written by Canadian brothers D. & J. Breithaupt, but it is a beauty, seemingly from the golden age of pop and jazz compositions. Of the thirteen tracks, seven are recent compositions, generally not known to the public, while five of the tunes come from the Great American Songbook. While the latter offer the listener a sense of familiarity, other than the mid-tempo Gus Kahn/Walter Donaldson "Love Me Or Leave Me," the others seemed to be rather tired titles (eg. "Honeysuckle Rose," "You Do Something To Me," "I Got It Bad").
Only on the closing track, the Edith Piaf-associated "Hymne A L'Amour," known in English as "If You Love Me," does Braun bring off a cabaret coup with her French ballad version. Perry White's tenor sax backing and solo bring some life to the chestnut "I Got It Bad." Braun tries to liven up "Honeysuckle Rose" by changing the lyrics on one line to "Honey, suck my toes."
Part of the decision to introduce new material on album or live performance should involve whether or not the material will work for an audience that will be giving it one or two listens before categorization. Braun and company get in some good ones. A second tune from the Breithaupts, "Show Me Yours," is a typically saucy number that must be a highlight of her live performance; and "Guanabara Bay" is a tempting bossa appreciation of Rio's large body of water. The two tunes with a similar mid-tempo pacing are done back-to-back, while on other portions of the album, there are several stretches of two ballads strung together.
The latter portion of the album has the better new entries. Kurt Weill's "Lonely House," following by an up-tempo standard, leads into Canadian singer/songwriter Shirley Eikhard's "If We Had Never Met" and then Ann Hampton Calloway's "You Can't Rush Spring," concluding with the Piaf song. Two compositions early in the album, Eikhard's "About Last Night" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Beautiful," were pleasant but did not strike me as memorable.
So how does all of this work? Let's give Adi Braun some real credit for reseach, delivery, and presentation, and pianist Riley a big round for pulling this project together. After decades of listening to the work of Steve Wallace and Terry Clarke on Concord and several other labels, as well as their work with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass, here are two of the best in the business.
Visit Adi Braun on the web.
Tracks: The Rules Of The Game; Love Me Or Leave Me; About Last Night; Beautiful; Honeysuckle Rose; Guanabara Bay; Show Me Yours; I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good; Lonely House; You Do Something To Me; If We Had Never Met; You Can't Rush Spring; Hymne A L'Amour.
Personnel: Adi Braun: vocals; Doug Riley: piano; Perry White: tenor saxophone; Steve Wallace: bass; Terry Clarke: drums.