Vocalist Christy Bennett has made a specialty of unearthing the work of forgotten songwriters from the past, particularly women. That has led to this album where she presents ten songs written by Irene Higginbotham, a jazz composer active in the '40s.
Higginbotham's name is not well known today but a couple of her songs are; "This Will Make You Laugh" was a popular tune for Nat King Cole and "Good Morning Heartache" has been sung by many people, most notably Billie Holiday. Higginbotham had other songs recorded by people such as Peggy Lee and Louis Jordan in the '40s, but most of her work had been completely forgotten until this record. The selection of songs here shows Higginbotham's range as a writer. She could compose simple swinging jump tunes such as "Indiana Blues" and "That Did It, Marie" but also come up with melodies that had more sophisticated touches such as "In The Quiet of the Dawn"''s combination of bolero and waltz, and "Weatherman"''s rhumba beat.
Bennett and her lively swing combo, Fumee, do an excellent job of bringing these songs to life. The leader's voice is a rich, expressive soprano which can dreamily drift over ballads or stomp on up-tempo tunes with plenty of fire. Fumee's instrumentation combines accordion, mandolin, trumpet, and saxophone, which gives the arrangements a variety of ways to play out. Don Stille's accordion and Don Stiernberg's mandolin make a lovely accompaniment to Bennett's floating croon on "I've Got To Change My Ways" and the horn players, saxophonist Juli Wood and trumpeter Art Davis, add jubilant hot licks to the jaunty "Hello, Suzanne."
The band's joyful playing on the likes of "No Good Man," "Hello, Suzanne" and "That Did It, Marie" makes a striking contrast to the desolate mood of the set's two most famous songs. Bennett's performance on "This Will Make You Laugh" is particularly poignant as she sighs the lyrics over Stille's swelling accordion and her torchy resignation on "Heartache" is beautifully echoed by the horn section.
Christy Bennett has achieved something special in uncovering Irene Higginbotham's work and bringing her songs back into the world. She and her band really do an excellent job on these tunes and give Higginbotham belated but much-deserved recognition.
No Good Man; Good Morning Heartache; It Must Be You; In The Quiet of the Dawn; Hello, Suzanne; I've
Got To Change My Ways; Weatherman; Indiana Blues; This Will Make You Laugh; That Did It, Marie.
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