Working backwards, I discovered DC-area jazz vocalist and educator Darden Purcell with her second recording, Where the Blue Begins (Armored Records, 2016). It was an impressive recital with the nominal theme of twilight winding through its repertoire. While less thematically focused, Easy Living remains a well programmed set of eleven standards, "My Funny Valentine" thankfully not among them.
Easy Living smacks of youthfully precocious invention, a collection of master musicians trying their individual talents out in creative ways. Vocalist Purcell possess an instrument finely tuned through study and performance. She is easily the most precise singer I have heard in sometime. Her delivery and sense of time are impressive and immediately evidenced of the opener, "What a Little Moonlight Can Do." Purcell displays some pretty impressive scat chops in the introduction before launching into a very precise delivery of the song. Clinically precise.
The "clinical" part of this precision softens, particularly in the soft ballads like "Alice in Wonderland" and a terrific reading of the Goffin-King classic, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." "Love for Sale" finds both Purcells relaxed and swinging. Singing with sardonic humor, Purcell reveals the same delicate shabby hopelessness present in Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and, in doing so perfectly capturing Cole Porter's intention for his 1930 The New Yorkers showstopper.
The satisfying surprises lay in a rollicking "Your Red Wagon," that finds pianist Chip Stephens and winds player Chip McNeill playing con brio supporting both Purcells to do the same. What? Another tired performance of the 1930 Arlen-Koehler chestnut, "Get Happy?" Not on your life. Just as he did on "The Nearness of You" from Where the Blue Begins, Shawn Purcell transforms what begins as a churchy reverent performance into a Ben MonderShawn Lane shootout that is delightful. Now, that's what I am talkin' about! Easy Living finds Darden Purcell doing some pre-event warm ups in anticipation of the classroom, concert stage, and Where the Blue Begins.
What a Little Moonlight Can Do; Comes Love; Alice in Wonderland; Love for Sale; Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow; Your Red Wagon; Last Night When We Were Young; Get Happy; You Don’t know What Love Is; Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead; Easy Living.
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