In lot of years of listening I've come across a couple of five star takes on Fats Waller's classic song "Honeysuckle Rose": Benny's Goodman's extended, loose-limbed, rollicking live version on Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert ; and Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton's good time rendition—featuring a characteristic pinpoint precision trumpet solo by Pops—on Satch Plays Fats. Now I've found a third.
Vocalist Laura Welland chose the classic to open her debut CD, Love is Never Out of Season, allowing the song to whisper to life on Joe Labarbera's shuffling drum work and John Clayton's cool-walking bass, that interacts with Welland's singing beautifully as the vocalist croons in, slow and smooth, like a flow of... well, warm honey; and then the energy builds on a swelling tempo that pushes Welland's delivery from hushed and understated into the realm of belting it out with a supreme assurance full of nuanced phrasings, melding with her superb backing band, a meshing of vocalist and trio that reminds me of Tony Bennett's work with the Ralph Sharon Trio.
Welland's vocal style is refreshingly direct, bringing Rosemary Clooney or Irene Kral to mind; and here's betting she's soaked up some Ella Fitzgerald and Carmen McRae, too. But overall, her style is her own—unaffected, straightforward, clean-toned, with a personal way of turning a phrase with natural ease. And, man, can she and the trio swing, especially on the title tune and "I've Got the Sun in the Morning."
She's not Ella—who is?—but she scats like an angel (too briefly), with a less brassy, sparer approach and richer tones on "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To"; and her duet with pianist Bill Mays on "I'm Confessin'" has that late '40's, classic feel to it.
An outstanding recording, an uncluttered take on some of the standards, a finely focused effort from start to finish.
Track Listing: Honeysuckle Rose, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (and Write Myself a Letter), I'll Be Seeing You, Love is Never Out of Season, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, I've Got the Sun in the Morning, Dream a Little Dream of Me, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, I'm Confessin', Be My Love, While We're Young, If I Had You
Personnel: Laura Welland--vocals; Bill Mays--piano; John Clayton--bass; Joe Labarbera--drums; Larry Fuller--piano on 1 & 11
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.