A major test of any new recording is whether it avoids a "been there, done that" sound. Sonny and Perley's third release, Let It Happen, consistently escapes this trap, with three numbers ("Estate," "Scarborough Fair" and "Hymne l'Amour") particularly illustrating this fact.
This husband-wife team has long been both impressive and popular as performers of Brazilian favorites, jazz classics and Great American Songbook standards in the upstate New York and New England area. They brightly meld lyricism, passion, and rhythm in a way that is both rich and exotic. Let It Happen extends the jazz/Brazilian repertoire of their previous two releases to include superior pop tunes ("Scarborough Fair" and "Up On the Roof"), as well as two haunting songs of French originEdith Piaf's "Hymne a l'Amour" and Liane Foly's "Reve Orange."
"Estate" ("Summer"), which has become a contemporary standard favored by many jazz and Brazilian vocalists, serves as a test of Perley Rousseau's ability to distinctively interpret even familiar material. Her heartfelt reading of both the English and Italian lyrics almost redefines poignancy. Sonny Daye's spare electric keyboards, the throbbing bass lines of pianist Bill Charlap's talented brother Tom, and the delicate flute of Charlie Tokarz, all engagingly accented and colored by the various percussion instruments of Brian Melick, set the exotic atmosphere the song calls for. This number also strikes a successful balance between extending a song long enough to allow an engaging groove to be played out, but not so long the listener loses interest.
The ability to personalize a song is even better illustrated with "Scarborough Fair." Their arrangement of this old English folk tune is markedly different than Simon and Garfunkel's and includes the touching medieval prose, delivered in an alternating tender and commanding fashion by Ms. Rousseau. Likewise, the ability to sustain musical and emotional appeal over an extended time is again demonstrated in the effectively dramatic way the song slowly builds to a spellbinding resolution over nine minutes.
Lastly, "Hymne a l'Amour", which is usually sung in this country in English, merits special mention. Ms. Rousseau sings an appropriately heartbreaking rendition (including the original French lyrics) of this as "Hymne a l'Amour" ("Hymn of Love"), written by renowned French singer Edith Piafher grieving tribute to her lost love, boxer Marcel Cerdan, whose plane crashed on his way to see her. The nexus of art and emotion are joined in an exceptional way in this material.
The first jazz record I received
as a visiting gift from my
Japanese uncle at his
international division of
Toshiba EMI Tokyo was a
sample copy of Miles Davis'
Bitches Brew. A game
changer redirecting my
browsing habits and collection.