With so many singers these days competing to tempt the ears of an ever-shrinking jazz audience, success often rests not only on the talents of the vocalist but on the songs he or she chooses to interpret. On Going My Way,
San Francisco-based vocalist Zeena Quinn
puts her best foot forward on the opening numbers, "Lover" and "So in Love" (it's hard to go astray with Rodgers and Hart or Cole Porter) but it takes her quite a while to reclaim that groundand when she does, she sings Rodgers and Hammerstein's "It Might as Well Be Spring," with its exquisite lyric, in French! Granted, she sings a second chorus in English, but that serves only to press home the wisdom of that choice when compared to its prelude.
Setting aside that faux pas,
Quinn displays admirable range, diction and phrasing most of the way, although the album's jazz component is entrusted for the most part to her supporting cast, especially Steve Heckman
, whose smooth, melodic tenor saxophone (soprano on "Amado Mio," alto flute on Jimmy Rowles
' "The Peacocks" and Dori Caymmi
's "O Cantador") enhances most numbers. Pianist Adam Shulman
appends several pleasing solos, and there are welcome guest appearances by flutist Nika Rejto
on "The Peacocks" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" (she's listed as playing on the finale, Duke Ellington
's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So," but there's no flute on that number). As a postscript to the importance of repertoire, it must be noted that Quinn's choices there are sometimes less than persuasive.
For example, she sings five songs written as instrumentals whose lyrics, added later, seem more an afterthought than an improvement. Besides "The Peacocks," they include Charles Mingus
' "Weird Nightmare," Clifford Brown
's "Joy Spring," Horace Silver
's "Nica's Dream" and Wayne Shorter
's "Infant Eyes," each of which fared better in the composer's hands. The only point in singing "Joy Spring" instead of playing it on a trumpet would appear to be to prove you can do it, much like a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song. Okay, she made her point. Besides Italian, Quinn sings earnestly in Spanish and Portuguese ("Amado Mio," "O Cantador"), though it's unclear to a single-tongued listener which is which. And she does revisit toward album's end one more gem by Rodgers and Hart: "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from the musical Pal Joey.
Bottom line: Quinn is a capable singer with a pleasant voice. The opinion here, howeverand please bear in mind this is only one listener's verdict and open to debateis that she would have been better served had she embraced more music from the GAS and less from jazz themes whose melodies clearly outshine their lyrics and undervalue her talent. Next time, perhaps?
Lover; So in Love; Weird Nightmare; Amado Mio; The Peacocks; Joy Spring; O Cantador; Nica’s
Dream; Infant Eyes; It Might as Well Be Spring; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; I’m Just
a Lucky So and So.