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.
Track Listing: 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.
Personnel: 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.
Title: Is It Me...?
| Year Released: 2017
| Record Label: Resonance Records