Shirley Horn, Diana Krall, Patricia Barber, Norah Jones. The piano chanteuse is swinging into vogue in a major way. A smart move that the newest series in the MAXJAZZ arsenal is the vocal- piano series, and even smarter that the label elected Patti Wicks for its inaugural outing. Patti Wicks demonstrated an acute musical aptitude at an early age, nurtured by her tenure at the Crane School of Music, where she studied classical piano and composition. There, she was introduced to jazz and caught the bug, eventually shifting her focus from the classic pursuits to jazz piano and finally vocals.
Hmm. Here is the politically incorrect part of the review. Ms. Wicks is a willowy, attractive blonde whoby looking at the disc coverone would think has a delicate coquettish voice. What you hear after the opening bars of Ray Nobel's "Love Locked Out" is a deep resonant alto peppered with a sensual huskiness that is not in the least bit fuzzy or ill defined. Wicks' voice betrays straight and level experience without a hint of naiveté. She sings this collection of plaintive ballads with a tone of assurance that this too will pass with no notes of defeat.
Her piano is equally impressive. Not too many notes, this one: Ms. Wicks has talent to burn and to my ears has a better-defined piano style than Diana Krall, with a maturity light years ahead of Norah Jones. A splendid example of both her singing and pianism is found in Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now." Wicks delivers this brilliant ballad with certainty and confidence.
Patti Wicks' voice and piano are closely captured and pushed to the front to the recording. Bassist Keter Betts and drummer Joe LaBarbera support her with that perfect balance of swing and restraint, allowing Ms. Wicks to drive the bus alone. And this is one bus you wouldn't want driven any other way.