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Ya Ya Fornier is not exactly a newcomer. Her late husband, Vernell Fornier, was a drummer long associated with Ahmad Jamal. Bearcat is the vocalist's first recording, however, and she has recruited none other than David Murray, the iconoclastic and enigmatic tenor saxophonist who has been an American expatriate for the last number of years. The recording is dedicated to another saxophonist, Clifford Jordan, who composed the title cut, offering both Ms. Fornier and Mr. Murray ample area in which to ply their respective wares.
Not completely her recording, Fornier strolls while the tenorist devotes his best David Murray-Ben Webster hybrid sound to Jimmy Heath’s "Voice of the Saxophone." Also featured is Jordan’s protégé, alto saxophonist Sue Terry. Ms. Fornier and friends delightfully deconstruct Ellington’s "I Don’t Get Around Much Any More," lifting the melody deftly from its established rhythm and thereby setting it free.
Murray provides two originals, the gospel-laden "Live The Life" and the bluesy "When Monarchs Come to Town." Pianists Craig Taborn and Rod Williams provide sensitive accompaniment and support, as does the entire rhythm section. Ms. Fornier’s voice is beautiful; we should be glad that she is no longer hiding it under a basket.