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Ditto...LaVerne Butler...And More. In the beginning, Richard McDonnell had a vision that became incarnate with LaVerne Butler’s Blues in the City 1. He saw that this was good and decided that Ms. Butler must have company 2. McDonnell, in his infinite and far-seeing wisdom, provided the Butler creation with mates, the first being Carla Cook’s It’s About Time 3.
In early 1999, MAXJAZZ kicked its new presence off with the very fine release of LaVerne Butler’s Blues in the City (which I reviewed in the July Issue of All About Jazz ). Blues in the City inaugurated the new label’s “Jazz Vocal Series”. That disc prompted me to perceive the blurred line between Pop, R&B, and Jazz. Carla Cook’s It’s About Time continues, and hardens, this perception. Ms. Cook not only cleverly adds R&B to her agenda, she also add the surprising “Heart of Gold” (yes, Neil Young’s Harvest harvest). She extends the eclectic trend started by Butler.
The Divine Ms. Cook. Carla Cook’s voice is confident and sure. Her scatting is tasteful and appropriate, never gaudy or faux-free. She has a serious tone that smacks of the actuality of a Merlot as opposed to the insinuation of a Chardonnay. There is an edgy sexiness to her voice displayed on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and the standard “The Way You Look Tonight”. She takes on “Heart of Gold” in such a way as I would expect Carol King in her post Tapestry days. “Hold On To God’s Unchanging Hand” is a beautifully conceived rendering of the old gospel tune.
The Guys in the Band. Ms. Cook has assembled a band like a drug company assembling a vaccine— each member having their proper and essential place in the mix. The core to this disc, though all musicians play over the top, is bassist Billy Kilson and pianist Cyrus Chestnut. Kilson’s Paul Chamber’s intro to “The Way You Look Tonight” and Chestnut’s funky Fender Rhodes (joined by Regina Carter’s tasty violin) on the title track give this disc a swinging momentum that defies Newtonian Mechanics.
Bravissimo! Richard McDonnell for conceiving this label and series and Carla Cook for taking part in it. This is music to crow about. Perfect sound and delivery. I look forward to every release that comes my way and hope to hear much more from the divine Ms. Cook.
Track Listing: Until I Met You; Inner City Blues; The Way You Look Tonight; September Song; Can
Personnel: Carla Cook: Vocals; Cyrus Chestnut, Andy Milne: Piano and Fender Rhodes; Kenny Davis: Acoustic and Electric Bass; Billy Kilson, Darryl Hall: Drums; Regina Carter: Violin; Jeffery Haynes: Percussion; George Gray: Drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.