P>Sponsored and released by Manchester Craftsmen's Guild of Pittsburgh, PA, this CD records a live concert by vocalist/violinist Nicole Yarling at the Guild's Hall. Introduced by the late and sorely missed Joe Williams, Ms Yarling presents a mixed program of traditional popular material, two of her own originals and some straight-ahead standards by the likes of Miles Davis, Eddie Harris and George Shearing - all with mixed results. One gets a preview of coming attractions with the first cut where"The Best Things in Life Are Free" kicks off with a scatting sequence rather than with straight lyrics. It turns out that a significant portion of this album is Yarling doing wordless vocalizing in one form or another. From straight wordless vocalizing, to Leon Thomas-type yodeling on "Freedom Jazz Dance" to outright screeching on "Conception", all the scatting bases are touched. After a while, one yearns to hear a few words. There's also a good deal of attention given to syllable stretching to the point that it sounds artificial. Instead of creating the appropriate emotion, it ends up with heavy-handed renditions accompanied by a good deal of shouting. Yarling shows she can sing in a relaxed, straight forward manner on "Blame It on My Youth" and "That Old Black Magic". On the former she is backed by some excellent guitar of Henry Johnson. Also on the former, Joe Williams comes on stage and joins in for a couple of choruses. Judging from the applause, the audience was obviously happy to see him. Although the album features a prominent photo of Ms Yarling playing the violin, she takes out the fiddle only on two occasions, one of them with a swinging backing of Joe Williams on his own "Who She Do". The session ends with a couple of very nice bonus cuts by Williams.
To this point, most of Ms Yarling's success as a performer has come when she was with pop, rock, country performer Jimmy Buffett before moving to jazz. Based on this album, she needs to work on developing a distinctive, consistent way of delivering and interpreting material usually associated with jazz singers. Certainly, she needs to reduce her reliance on scatting. She's got the tools; they just need to be mastered.
Tracks:The Best Things in Life Are Free; The Way You Love Me; Dig; We'll all Be Free; My One and Only Love; That Old Black Magic; I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings; Freedom Jazz Dance; Conception; Love for Sale; Blame It on My Youth*; Who She Do*; Imagination*; After You've Gone*