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First, thanks to Southport Records for resisting the temptation to have vocalist Libby York strike a seductive pose à la Diana Krall to promote Libby’s debut album, Blue Gardenia. Not much is said about York except that she’s from Chicago, started singing rather late at age 35, and logged time in New York City and Key West, Florida, before returning to her hometown. She’s a polished, smoky–voiced cabaret singer with acceptable range and articulation, but I heard nothing here that would separate her from the herd. On the plus side, I admire York’s sultry version of “Old Cape Cod” more than I do Patti Page’s. She generally chooses the proper tempos too, with the exception, to me, of “It Might as Well Be Spring,” whose passionate longings are obliterated by her breezy, upbeat reading. But tempos must vary, I suppose, and York turns on the after–burners, more appropriately, on “Almost Like Being in Love” and the delightful endpiece, Jackie Allen/Dan Nahmod’s “You Could Be Fred.” The second half of the album is especially strong, thanks in part to the material (“Blue Gardenia,” “I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues,” “Out of This World,” “Imagination”) and unwavering support from Schiff, Portolese, Cox and Gratteau who are splendid throughout. York, who lists Abbey Lincoln, June Christy, Rosie Clooney and Betty Carter among her influences, has a way to go to overtake any of them — but she’s a charming singer in her own right, and Blue Gardenia marks a promising debut. But please note the 39:51 playing time.
Track listing: Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home; It Might as Well Be Spring; Where Do You Start; Old Cape Cod; Almost Like Being in Love; Blue Gardenia; I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues; Out of This World; Imagination; You Could Be Fred (39:51).
Libby York, vocals; Bobby Schiff, piano; Frank Portolese, guitar; Jim Cox, bass; Phil Gratteau, drums.
Contact: Southport Records, 3501 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60657 (phone 773
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.