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Golden Thread is a winning combination of Melissa Sweeney's vocals and pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe's contributions as chief architect.
This project alternates between lush string arrangements with Cunliffe's piano and jazz nonet accompanyment. Sweeney begins with a thoughtfully included verse on the Clare-Gorney standard "You Are My Thrill" [sic]. Cunliffe and Sweeney cop the Nina Simone arrangement of "My Baby Just Cares." When the track begins with that Basie-like piano vamp, one's reaction is to start toe-tapping and finger-popping. I view this offering as an homage, not an imitation, and it is nice to hear again. Trombonist George Bohanon gets in some good licks also.
Joni Mitchell's "Sex Kills," an unusual jazz adaptation, works aided by Rob Lockart's tenor sax and Cunliffe's slinky solo. The juxtaposition of those dramatic lyrics and the opening notes of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "I Have Dreamed," done with strings, provides a contrast from meaningful contemporary issues to a burnished love story from the Great American Songbook. Gabriel Faure's classical "Pavane" is presented with French lyrics and Jobim's "Viva Sonhando" (also known in English as "Dreamer") is borrowed from the Getz Gilberto recording in Portuguese with scatting. Several more standards conclude with a rarely covered version of Paul Simon's "Where I Belong."
Featuring two Melissa Sweeney originals, the collaboration with Bill Cunliffe continues with Golden Thread. We have also been promised another new album before the close of 2005.
Track Listing: You Are My Thrill, My Baby Just Cares, Golden Thread, Sex Kills, I Have Dreamed, Skylark, Pavane, Sweet Lorraine, Viva Sonhando, Why Don't You Do Right, Where I Belong.
Personnel: Melissa Sweeney,vocals; Bill Cunliffe, piano and arrangements; George Bohanon, trombone; Darek Oles or Tom Warrington, bass; John Chiodini, guitar; Ricky Woodard, Rob Lockhart, Bob Sheppard, sax; Joe LaBarbera, drums; Paulinho Da Costa, percussion; John Yoakum, Brian Scanlon, woodwinds; John Mason, French Horn; Peter Kent, concertmaster; Amy Shulman, harp.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.