128

Carol Mennie: I'm Not a Sometime Thing

By

Sign in to view read count
Carol Mennie: I'm Not a Sometime Thing Jazz singing is like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography—it can't be defined, but everyone knows what it is when they see (or hear) it. Most of the time, jazz singing falls into two categories: (1) scat singing, improvisatory vocalising, or (2) cabaret, Broadway-style singing. Carol Mennie definitely falls into the latter category. Her husband and musical collaborator, Dom Minasi, on the other hand, is a gifted and technically superb jazz guitarist who, like Joe Lovano, has an excellent reputation as a swinging, straight-ahead jazz musician as well as a mainstay among the non-swinging Knitting Factory demimonde. Simply put, this is a jazz vocal album that would have been much better if the vocal tracks had been omitted.

Not that Mennie is a bad singer. Most of the time her efforts are competent, although she is troubled by very wayward intonation. The problem is that Mennie is simply not in the same league as her husband and fellow musicians. To keep the baseball metaphor going, she was brought up from the minors way too soon.

Mennie, an actress, came to music late, and it shows. She has a good dramatic sense and can definitely "sell" a song, but, like most cabaret-style artists, her theatricality far outweighs her musicianship. To be fair to Mennie, she is certainly better than most actors-turned-singers, and she's worlds ahead of Mandy Patinkin and Andrea Marcovicci.

As a case in point, Mennie's rendition of the Mann/Hilliard classic "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" has theatricality in spades, but her emoting is obviated by faulty intonation. Sinatra's pitch-perfect recording of this tune was literally pitch perfect. He didn't need to oversell the song in order to cover up musical deficiencies.

There are, however, a number of very interesting arrangements on this CD. I was particularly struck by "Lover Man," in which the up-tempo 6/8 meter gives a feeling of a jazz waltz. And Minasi's always interesting guitar work is shown to great effect in his bluesy arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me," in which he manages to elicit a steel dobro sound from his electric guitar.

The supporting cast on this album is also quite good. Trumpeter Valery Ponomarev is, as usual, outstanding. His muted solo on the lugubrious Minasi original "Brown Eyes" is particularly haunting and affecting. Likewise, the tenor and soprano saxophones of Patience Higgins are superb. Higgins has one of the finest tones I've heard on the difficult-to-control soprano saxophone since the passing of Woody Herman. His solo on "Jazz, Jazz, Jazz" and obbligato on "You Don't Know What Love Is" are models of restraint and taste. Well known on the local scene, Higgins is a player who deserves far greater recognition outside the New York City metropolitan area.

In sum, this recording makes me want to hear much more of Minasi, Ponomarev, and Higgins and much, much less of Carol Mennie. Hopefully, an all-instrumental album will be in the works in the near future.

Track Listing: 1. Jazz, Jazz, Jazz; 2. You Don't Know What Love Is; 3. He Was Too Good For Me; 4. Willow Weep For Me; 5. Brown Eyes; 6. I'm Not a Sometime Thing; 7. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; 8. Who Needs You; 9. Too Long at the Fair; 10. Angela; 11. Lover Man

Personnel: Carol Mennie, vocals; Dom Minasi, guitar; Patience Higgins, reeds; Valery Ponomarev, trumpet; Michaal Stevens, piano; Tomas Ulrich, cello; Ken Filiano, bass; Jay Rosen, drums; Tom McGrath, percussion

Year Released: 2004 | Style: Vocal


Shop

More Articles

Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Right Up On CD/LP/Track Review Right Up On
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Wanderlust CD/LP/Track Review Wanderlust
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Imagination CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Evolution CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read On A Monday Evening CD/LP/Track Review On A Monday Evening
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Super Petite" CD/LP/Track Review Super Petite
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette" CD/LP/Track Review Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette
by Nicola Negri
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Alba" CD/LP/Track Review Alba
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 7, 2016
Read "Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles" CD/LP/Track Review Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 6, 2016
Read "Havana Blue" CD/LP/Track Review Havana Blue
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!