With half a dozen albums to her name, British vocalist Polly Gibbons has no need to prove her worth but that hasn't inhibited her from pulling out all the stops on her second album for Resonance following on from 2014's My Own Company.
Thomas Dolby's "Ability To Swing" proves just that, courtesy of a first class powerhouse of an American horn section (the album was recorded in the States where Gibbons plays gigs with increasing frequency, such is her in-demand status). The brass also acts as a sonic turbo-charged engine on the funky "You Can't Just...," one of three songs penned by Gibbons and her pianist/arranger and fellow Brit, James Pearson. The pair also co-wrote the wistfully lyrical title track.
"Basin Street Blues" is given an up-tempo makeover but there are sultry soul-infused numbers such as "Midnight Prayer" (another Gibbons/Pearson original) and Gary McFarland's "Sack Full Of Dreams." There are also quartet backed numbers like "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" and the ruminative ballad "Wild Is The Wind."
The uncompromising soul/blues outing "Dr Feelgood" with the horn section in attendance contrasts with standards like Duke Ellington's "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" which is afforded a straight-ahead treatment elevated by a touch of accelerando mid-way through. The final track, "Don't Be On The Outside" is denoted as a bonus track since it's the only live track on the album, setting it apart from the preceding 11 numbers.
In 2016, Gibbons supported George Benson and Gladys Knight on their sell-out tours including two nights at London's Royal Albert Hall. Those prestigious concerts were just another sign that her star is rising. Possessed of a powerfully soulful voice, she is undoubtedly maturing into one of Britain's finest singing talents and this album, replete with stellar arrangements, is another testament to that fact.
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.