British songstress Polly Gibbons made her U.S. debut back in 2015 with the well received and seriously-acclaimed Many Faces of Love (Resonance, 2015), and now presents the highly-anticipated and swinging Is It Me...? . Touching on some R&B, pop-styled songs as well as including music from The Great American Songbook, this is one musical experience that turns out to be bold, brassy and brilliant. A staple of the UK jazz scene since the mid-2000s, the beautiful Ms. Gibbons is armed with an exciting vocal instrument perfect for interpreting the music of the R&B and jazz genres which, she does so splendidly here.
Ably backed up by a rhythm and sizzling seven-piece horn section, that include among the cast, such jazz luminaries as Bob Sheppard, Andy Martin, Brian Scanlon, Tamir Hendelman and others, Gibbons unleashes her bluesy-tinged voice on some excellent songs the band superbly supports, whether in ballad form or in big band fashion. The music begins in splashy style with a rousing ensemble interpretation of Thomas Dolby's 1988 "Ability to Swing" followed by the spicy R&B-like Gibbons original, "You Can't Just..." as the singer reaches the high notes like a blues vocalist on steroids.
Gone but not forgotten, Gary McFarland left us the shinning "Sack Full of Dreams" where the singer takes to the heart in one emotional rendition of a beautiful ballad that Gibbons states "I've loved it for ages," a song expressing hope that will never get old. The leader serves a slice of Americana with her treatment of the standard "Wild is the Wind," as arranged by the great Bill Cunliffe, turns out to be the soft spot of the recording demonstrating this singer's range from swing to mellow.
Gibbons remembers The Great American Songbook with a lively version of the Depression-era spirit-lifting "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," coming across like a saucy gyrating blues singer at her best. In addition, with the accompaniment of trumpeter Willie Murillo and the full ensemble, Gibbons voices a delicious rendition of Duke Ellington's "I Let a Song Go Out of My Head."
One of the more memorable songs of the set has to be Anthony Newley's classic "Pure Imagination," from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory where the vocalist displays her appreciable chops on one inspiring song. The album features one live track as a bonus with the soulfully swinging "Don't Be on The Outside" where guitarist Graham Dechter performs a dazzling solo as the leader takes the high notes with ease.
A highly engaging and entertaining session of song on the very impressive Is It Me...? Asking a question with a firm and resounding "yes," it is her, Polly Gibbons, a British jazz and Blues singer with a vocal gift on superb display here.
Ability to Swing; You Can't Just ...; Sack Full of Dreams; Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; Wild is the Wind; Basin St. Blues; Midnight Prayer; Is It Me...?; Pure Imagination; Dr. Feelgood; I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.
Polly Gibbons: vocals; Tamir Hendelman: piano; James Pearson: piano; Shedrick Mitchell: Hammond Organ; Graham Dechter: guitar; Kevin Axt: bass; Ray Brinker: drums; Willie Murillo: trumpet; Vinny Dawson: trumpet; Bob McChesney: trombone; Andy Martin: trombone; Bob Sheppard: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Brian Scanlon: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute; Keith Bishop: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute; Tom Peterson: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone.
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