Vocalist/songwriter Heather Masse received her didactic training at the New England Conservatory of Music and her practicum on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Her academy training was in jazz vocals, but her practical experience reflects more folk- flavored fare. Her previous recording, Bird Song (Red House, 2009), was a well- received collections of folk originals, solidifying Masse's folk bona fides established with the wildly popular Wailin' Jennys. Her voice is user friendly, neither over-practiced nor hyper-informed by her education. She is comfortable in her voice. It was inevitable that Masse would return to jazz in the studio, only a matter of time.
That said, only a most impeccable talent could have been tapped for Masse's jazz disc. Not some flashy pianist like the late Oscar Peterson nor an impressionistic player like Brad Mehldau; no, neither of those would do. What Masse's talent and vision requires is an equally informed and experienced musician who could bring a broad horizontal knowledge of jazz piano...and she found that in Dick Hyman. As a mainstay in the music for 60 years, Hyman is proficient in every jazz piano style and brings exactly the skills set necessary for a Heather Masse recording of standards.
From the outset, this recital is something out of the ordinary. First, Masse is liberal and permissive with her treatment of the material. However, that is not to say that she is reckless. Quite the opposite: Masse's superb training has enabled her to bring out the commonalities in music, from the doo wop in "Since I Fell For You" to the stride-blues extravaganza of "Our Love Is Here To Stay." Hyman easily falls into the groove and even guides Masse empathically through these songs, a coalescence of musical vision and sound.
Masse's voice is perfectly natural and freshlush and supple. She is neither married to the melody nor has the compulsion to show off vocal fireworks. She is relaxed as opium and honey, yet is as exacting as a mathematical equation. Her treatment of Kurt Weill's "September Song" and "Lost In The Stars" reveal Masse's soft touch for difficult material. It does the same for Hyman's playing, which is as impressionistic as it is expressionistic. Hyman can simply play anything...well. He gives Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" a barrel-house flavor with a walking left hand. His solo is all 1960s soul jazz crossed with James P. Johnson. Masse belts it out with a commanding sexuality and aplomb.
Lock My Heart is a beginning...a beginning of a survey Masse will be making expertly through the Great American Songbook. To think that this is all there will be from the jazzy Heather Masse is unacceptable.
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Lullaby of Birdland; Since I Fell
for You; Love is Here to Stay; September Song; Lost In The Stars; Love
for Sale; If I Called You; I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good; A Flower is
a Lovesome Thing; Morning Drinker; I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw
Away the Key).