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Amy Cervini: Jazz Country

Dan Bilawsky By

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This album title is something of a double entendre. It references the jazz community that surrounds the lady of the hour, but it's really about the nexus that exists between the two American-born forms of music that make up its name. Therefore, it could be said that Jazz Country is missing a hyphen, but that's about the only thing it's missing; in all other respects, this is a complete and beautiful work of art.

Whether you call this a hybridized form of music, a two-pronged exploration of American roots music, or something else entirely is of little consequence. No matter how you slice it, box it in, or categorize it, Jazz Country remains what it simply is: an album filled with intimate performances that showcase an extraordinary vocalist and her sensitive-and-simpatico musician-friends.

Cervini is part of a class of vocalists, along with Kate McGarry, Melissa Stylianou, Sara Gazarek and several others, that sing feelings, not songs. Sure, they learn the lyrics, the melodies, the intentions behind every word, but when it comes down to it, none of that would mean anything if they couldn't connect with the music's receivers on a simple-and-basic emotional level. Cervini, like the other women on that list, manages to tug at the heart strings nearly every time she opens her mouth, and this skill has never been more apparent than it is here. Songs like Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush," Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," Dominique Eade's "Go Gently To The Water," and Dave Frishberg's "Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue" resonate deeply with the soul. She puts her own stamp on every one of them without wandering too far astray from where they usually dwell.

Much of this material finds Cervini in the company of Jesse Lewis' guitar, Matt Aronoff's bass, and nothing else. This drum-less setting allows for a more focused and cloistered sound, though some guests drop in to shake things up or add some indispensable sounds to the mix. Clarinetist Anat Cohen adds some spunk to the proceedings on "Frim Fram Sauce" and "Je Danse Avec La Neige," Nadje Noordhuis contributes some priceless muted trumpet work on "I Still Miss Someone," and Nellie McKay supports Cervini with ukulele and vocal contributions on "Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue." Other guest contributors include saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, accordion master Gary Versace and pianist Oded Lev-Ari.

Connecting the songs of Rodgers and Hart, Neil Young, and Dominique Eade is no easy feat, but Amy Cervini is no ordinary singer; she has no problems tying these artistic threads together under the banner of Jazz Country.

Track Listing: Blue Moon; Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue; Song For The Mira; Frim Fram Sauce; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry; Calling You; Go Gently To The Water; Penguin Dance; Smile; Je Danse Avec La Neige; After The Gold Rush; I Still Miss Someone; Before He Cheats; Drivin' Cryin' Missin' You.

Personnel: Amy Cervini: vocals, saxophone (2); Jesse Lewis: guitar, vocals (6); Matt Aronoff: bass; Anat Cohen: clarinet (4, 10); Marty Ehrlich: saxophone (5); Oded Lev-Ari: piano (7, 8); Nellie McKay: vocals (2), ukulele (2); Nadje Noordhuis: trumpet (12); Gary Versace: accordion.

Title: Jazz Country | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Anzic Records

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