Stacey Kent has come up with captivating collection to honor Fred Astaire as a singer by putting together a play list of thirteen tunes written by the cream of the popular song writers. With his low key, narrow ranged voice, Astaire probably introduced and/or made popular more songs that were destined to become cherished entries in the Great American Songbook than any other artist. There are songs by the likes of Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern, the Gershwin Brothers, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Irving Berlin on this album. (I react with scepticism every time I hear Astaire's sing "I Won't Dance"). Was it because he had a great voice? Of course not. But his approach to singing was the same as to his dancing, very relaxed - - or so he made it appear. And this is what makes this album attractive. Kent conveys a similar feeling of relaxation and has a much better voice than Astaire. The play list is delivered within one of three musical settings, just with piano, piano plus rhythm, and in a larger aggregation which includes sax and guitar. Irrespective of the instrumental setting, all of the tunes are delivered with Kent's pleasant nasal twang which helps her create the impression that the lyrics are part of an intimate one on one conversation with each listener.
Kent's pianist on this set, David Newton, is fast becoming one of the premiere accompanists in the business having worked with such top flight singers as Tina May. He and Kent display their musical affection with each other on a relaxed, suave rendition of "Isn't This A Lovely Day" and on "They Can't Take that Away from Me", during which Kent and Newton gently joust during an elegant performance. "`S Wonderful, usually performed at a rip roaring pace, is done in a languid medium tempo with Newton's piano, an effortlessly lilting Colin Oxley guitar and Tomlinson's tenor sharing the mike with Kent. "A Fine Romance" is about as fast as it gets on this album as Kent is backed by a piano trio with Oxley's cleaned line guitar added. Newton engages in a bit of Erroll Garner-like humming during his solo on this tune. Jim Tomlinson's romantic tenor is featured on "Let Yourself Go" and "They All Laughed". On "One for My Baby", he brings out his clarinet, using the middle register creating a melancholy mood for this definitive "I'm drowning my sorrows in booze" tune.
Let Yourself Go reached #1 on the Tower Europe Jazz Chart and #4as the Jazz Journal critics' Best Albums of 1999. In addition to providing more than 50 minutes of musical entertainment, the liner notes set out the lyrics for each of the tunes on the album. This is another excellent album by American born, UK-based singer Stacey Kent and is enthusiastically recommended. By the way, visit the engaging Ms Kent on her web site at http://members. aol.com/staceykent.
Tracks:Let Yourself Go; They Can't Take That Away from Me; I Won't Dance; Isn't This a Lovely Day?; They All Laughed; He Loves and She Loves; Shall We Dance?; One for My Baby (and One More for the Road); `S Wonderful; A Fine Romance; I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans; I'm Putting all My Eggs in One Basket; By Myself