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Joel A. Martin and Sharon Clark: Intimate Ella - A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Superior vocalist-pianist duo recordings provide listeners marvelous opportunities to encounter and explore artistic subtleties and nuances that can be lost when hearing larger ensemble formats. In a duo format, singer and keyboardist engage in a delicate, yet tightrope-walking tango in which respective toes must be on and ears zoned in bat-like.

With Intimate Ella vocalist Sharón Clark and pianist Joel A. Martin join forces in a splendid send-up of a dozen selections associated with the centennial-celebrating well-source for modern female jazz vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald. The result is a collaboration that oozes intimacy and artistry.

Clark is a versatile, world-traveled performer who can—and has—handled every format superbly from a duo to fronting a full symphony orchestra. She splits her time between the U.S. and Sweden. She brings a confident, resonant, and very fine voice to the session. She's eminently wise to be her own woman here—and a terrific choice that is. Her phrasing is classic and her lyric interpretation is engaging. She knows Her Grace's notes, as well as her own, on "Ellappogiaturas." Pianist, producer and creator of Jazzical, Joel A. Martin brings a lengthy and robust resume to the session. His accompaniment is beautiful, pure, highly involved and puckish where need be. He avoids stepping on her heels, yet offers Ms. Clark plenty. Martin, whose dynamic shadings with the singer are excellent, realizes that 1+1 yields more than 2. The pair is simply joined at a beautiful, interpretive hip.

They cover ten standards. Most are workhorses ("Angel Eyes," "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," the highly flourished "The Man I Love"), half of which were recorded by Ella in the songstress's only duo album (done with pianist/arranger, Paul Smith, her long-time multiple "Songbook" collaborator and conductor). The pace is primarily balladic but not melancholic ("I Cried for You" and the blues-brewed "Black Coffee"). There's even some sly humor on the fun, but rarely-heard "To Keep My Love Alive." The swing is subtle and "pocketed." Additionally, the production values here—the manner in which piano and vocalist are recorded—is ideal. That's to the engineer's and producers' credits.

Intimate Ella is a fine recording and a "tour de Fitz." It's an impeccably performed tribute of which Her Majesty certainly would approve and dub these two accordingly.

Track Listing: Angel Eyes: Black Coffee; Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me;I Cried for You;I've Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good); One for My Baby (And One More for the Road); September Song; The Man I Love; Then You've Never Been Blue; To Keep My Love Alive.

Personnel: Joel A. Martin: piano; Sharon Clark: vocals.

Title: Intimate Ella - A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self-Produced

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