Centennial celebrations abound in 2017. In this year of years we fête many jazz greats delivered unto us one century agoDizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Mongo Santamaria, Thelonious Monk, and Tadd Dameron, to cite just a handful. That list of giants forever changed the face of this music, but it's a list that's noticeably incomplete without the inclusion of one Ella Fitzgerald. "The First Lady of Song," as she came to be known, raised the bar considerably and redefined the very art of jazz singing. Hits like "'A-Tisket, A-Tasket" put her on the map during her artistic infancy, a time spent with drummer Chick Webb's band; her "Songbook" series of recordings on Verve became the gold standard by which all subsequent sets from other artists would be measured; and her late-career duo triumphs with guitarist Joe Pass
put her peerless pipes on display in a more exposed light. It's that last setting that receives a nod with this smartly-crafted collection of music from vocalist Patrice Williamson and guitarist Jon Wheatley
Williamson, not one to simply deliver rote copies of somebody else's material, manages to simultaneously pay tribute to Fitzgerald and put together a unique song cycle that mirrors the arc of a relationship. Comes Love
comes into being with the signs of enthusiasm and apprehension that signal the dawn of love, but it eventually moves toward disillusionment and all that comes with the end of a romance. The materialtwelve songs pulled straight from the Fitzgerald-Pass repertoireis brilliantly sequenced and arranged, showcasing Williamson's warm, flexible, and emotive alto while also spotlighting the shared sensibilities in this artistic pairing.
The album waltzes in on the wings of Toots Thielemans
' "Bluesette," featuring some overdubbed flute work from Williamson. It's a tad more mannered than one might expect, but completely in step with the nature of a duo. Then this pair takes us through "Comes Love," the first of several opportunities to witness some scatting; "'Tis Autumn," which presents in breezy fashion and gives pause to appreciate Williamson's clear-voiced enunciation and Wheatley's finely woven lines; "I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)," floating in as a dream sequence before surprising the ear with its shifts between sections in 7/4 and 5/4; and "Take Love Easy," which proves to be a classy, straight-down-the-middle standout.
As the album hits its midpoint with "I Want To Talk About You" and "Why Don't You Do Right?," those following the story will note that the relationship under observation starts to move toward a (more) noticeable decline. Pieces like the immortal "Lush Life," "You Turned The Tables On Me," and "By Myself" paint clear pictures of where things have gone and where they're headed. Williamson draws out the requisite emotions in each number while imbuing them with touches of her own story. The relationship eventually comes to an end, but every ending serves as a beginning, something highlighted by a "One Note Samba" sendoff that speaks to rebirth and rejuvenation.
Williamson, with the help of Wheatley and co-producer Helen Sung
, has created an album that's rich in feeling, concept, and content. Comes Love
carries the legacy of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass forward while reminding us that Patrice Williamson and Jon Wheatley are artists with their own musical benefactions to bestow upon the jazz world.
Bluesette; Comes Love; 'Tis Autumn; I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful); Take Love Easy; I Want To Talk About You; Why Don't You Do Right?; Don't Be That Way Lush Life; You Turned The Tables On Me; By Myself; One Note Samba.
Patrice Williamson: vocals, flute (1, 12), shaker (12); Jon Wheatley: guitar.