Lisa Maxwell's debut, Return to Jazz Standards (Self Produced, 2010), was well-received when released, marking the New York singer's recovery and comeback from a vocal cord disorder that sidelined her for several years earlier in the decade. Maxwell returns with Happy, a recital of not-so-standard standards, supported by Maxwell's coach, pianist Keith Ingham, and his fine quartet. The result is an evolution in cohesiveness and vision.
In a word, Maxwell's Happy is breezy. Her voice has filled out in all the right places and betrays a youthful, scrubbed, girl-next-door coquettishness. "Pretty" and "unadorned" will also describe this voice. Maxwell's natural instrument is her greatest asset, and her singing philosophy bears the same pretty and unadorned characteristics as her voice. A fan of melody, Maxwell is conservative in her adherence, more often than not. to the composer's melodic intent, demonstrated most clearly in textbook readings of "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Skylark," two amply road-tested pieces, dusted off here.
Equal in importance to the present recital is the band, under Ingham's tutelage, the pianist turning out to be a most splendid accompanist to Maxwell; his simple, yet elegant arrangements perfectly frame the pure simplicity of Maxwell's voice and approach. Even on upbeat pieces like the opener, "I'll Take Romance," and "Under A Blanket of Blue," the two work with envious simpatico. Maxwell and Ingham coalesce perfectly on the Teddy Randazzo/Bobby Weinstein chestnut "Goin' Out of My Head," Ingham's electric piano and Maxwell's straight-arrow delivery recalling Petula Clark's 1965 recording of the song, flying slower than the speed of sound. The light samba spin is a nice touch.
Maxwell is still interested in the standards, but also shows an interest in musical roads less traveled. "This is Always," "Blue Moon" and "What a Wonderful Guy" are a joy to behold in the hands and voice of this singer. A user-friendly jazz vocalist to the end, Lisa Maxwell is one to behold.
I'll Take Romance; You Can't Lose a Broken Heart; Sunday in New York;
The Folks Who Live on the Hill; It Might As Well Be Spring; Someone To
Watch over Me; My Heart Goes with You; This Is Always; Going Out of My
Head; Blue Moon; Under a Blanket of Blue; June Night; Skylark; A
Lisa Maxwell: vocals; Keith Ingham: piano; Frank Tate, bass; Al Gafa: guitar; Steve Little: drums; Ben Wittman: percussion.