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Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen: In New York

Jack Bowers By

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Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen: In New York In November 2011, less than a year before leaving for their new home in Paris, singer Leslie Lewis and her pianist / husband, Gerard Hagen, paused in New York City long enough to record this delightful album of standards on which Lewis' charming voice is accompanied only by Hagen's compliant piano. The menu is comprised for the most part of well-known standards, the mood more calm and laid-back than Lewis' more outgoing persona in nightspots here and abroad where she has earned a loyal fan base.

As usual, Lewis pays close attention to the lyrics, not only their fluency but the deeper import, infusing each one with suitable awareness and emotion. This is especially important considering the nature of the session, which leans most often toward slower tempos whose keystone is sincerity, not animation. Lewis treats each song with respect, taking a no-frills approach that minimizes flashiness in favor of earnestness. The blues, never far from Lewis' radar, surfaces only briefly, on Duke Ellington's "Solitude." Otherwise, she sings plainly—no scatting or other digressions—while Hagen charts a similar course, lending strong support while improvising sparsely.

As noted, much of the album is devoted to familiar themes from the Great American Songbook, the exceptions being Don Raye's "Gentle Is My Love" and Norman Gimbel's "Killing Me Softly," the last sung in a manner unlike that of Roberta Flack who introduced the song in the mid-1970s. Only three numbers—"Like Someone in Love," "I Want to Be Happy," "I'll Remember April"—are played at so much as a medium tempo; the others are ballads including Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring," Victor Young's "When I Fall in Love" and Edward Heyman's "Body and Soul."

In New York shows another side of Leslie Lewis who is customarily more vivacious and jazz-oriented. It is, however, an aspect that is far from displeasing; Lewis has a winning way with a ballad, as she does with blues and swing. For those who appreciate poise and elegance, this album may be just the ticket.

Track Listing: Like Someone in Love; Gentle Is My Love; Solitude; I Want to Be Happy; Killing Me Softly; You Must Believe in Spring; I’ll Remember April; When I Fall in Love; Body and Soul.

Personnel: Leslie Lewis: vocals; Gerard Hagen: piano.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Surf Cove Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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