The first time someone told me that Billy Strayhorn
was a teenager when he wrote "Lush Life," I didn't believe it. Not so much because of the harmonic gymnastics, which were daunting enough, but because of the lyrics. "Romance is mush stifling those who strive, I'll live out a lush life in some small dive." No, someone had to have lived quite a bit to write something like that. No-one at eighteen could know that, so I thought, because I certainly didn't.
So, perhaps it is not surprising that a similar reaction should accompany listening to Anaïs Reno
's rendition of "Lush Life." She's how old? No, no-one at sixteen could do Strayhorn convincingly. Some singers at sixty couldn't do it. Hadn't the song defeated Frank Sinatra
? They may have lived long enough, but they hadn't been around enough. Isaac Stern put it that way about technical prodigies on violin; yes, they could certainly play, but they lacked the emotional depth needed to play expressively. They hadn't suffered enough, he said.
Anaïs Reno may break the rules, but listening to her do Strayhorn and Ellington is nothing, if not a blast. It is true, she has her weaknesses. Someone could tutor her in scat, which is not her forte. Her diction and enunciation are so clear and compelling that, at first hearing, they can be mistaken for a certain stiffness. But be advised, please, Anaïs can swing. She may not yet be Ella Fitzgerald
when she does "Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," but it would be nice to hear what she does with it in fifteen years time. What a voice Ms Reno possesses. Absolutely arresting, and "Mood Indigo" and "Daydream" are outstanding vehicles with which to display it. The entire recording leaves one in stunned disbelief. Emmet Cohen
is a most congenial accompanist, as is Juliet Kurtzman
, Anais' mother, whose violin solos are reminiscent of a certain Johnny Frigo
. What an extraordinary debut recording for Ms Reno.
Caravan; Mood Indigo; Still in Love; Chelsea Bridge / A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; I'm Just a Lucky So-and-
So; It's Kind of Lonesome Tonight; Day Dream; I Ain't Got Nothing but the Blues; All Roads Lead Back to You;
U.M.M.G. (Upper Manhattan Medical Group); Lush Life; Take the "A" Train.