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Carla Helmbrecht: Be Cool Be Kind

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Once again San Francisco is home for a fine singer. Carla Helmbrecht is a summa cum laude graduate from that school of singers who believe that in order to deliver her special message, there is no need to indulge in vocal tricks, become over emotional or even overdo dynamics by major shifts between singing loud and louder. Rather, her approach is cool, languid, laid back (as distinguished from laid out) and gently fervent.

On her second release for Heart Music with a play list that shows an ambivalent attitude, Helmbrecht stays away from up tempo rhythms, living comfortably with the slow and medium pace. The most excitable she gets is on "Easy Love" which she wrote with Peter Horvath. This track also reveals that she has a cute side about her. Helmbrecht's style results in pleasant off the beaten track Interpretations. Her "The Party's Over" which one normally hears with extensive emoting comes off matter of fact, "it's over and done with so get used to it", in Helmbrecht's vocal hands. Contrast this with the version to say Anita O'Day's. Jazz vocalizing allows plenty of room for both treatments.

Helmbrecht has managed to convince outstanding jazz musicians to join her for this session. In addition to the basic trio headed by Horvath's piano, invited guests make important contributions. On "Even Still", Ernie Watts sax offers dramatic counterpoint to Helmbrecht's plaintive rendering. Larry Koonse's guitar and Clay Jenkins' muted and open trumpet are delectably conspicuous on the "The Party's Over". Horvath's piano introduction sets the scene for a lovely "The Touch of Your Lips" as Joe LaBarbera's seductive brushes provide a soft angel hair like rhythmic underpinning. This is an outstanding track.

The lyrics are printed in the liner notes. But the producer let the graphic and design people run wild with the color combinations. Some of the words are red on a gray background which make them virtually impossible to read. Oh well, albums are bought for the quality of performances not the quality of the color layouts. And this album should be added to one's collection.


Title: Be Cool Be Kind | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Self Produced

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