Having made some unflattering remarks about Catherine Dupuis’ debut album ( I Hear Music,
jbQ Records), I’m happy to report that her second one is much better. She’s not quite there yet, but one can almost visualize the learning curve bending upward as she comes to grips with the substance of a lyric and prudently shapes it into a meaningful narrative. I was especially impressed by the decorous treatment of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” which Dupuis sings warmly and without gratuitous embellishment, as such a classic should be sung. She makes a wonderful start with Lerner and Loewe’s hauntingly lovely “Follow Me,” from the musical Camelot,
frames admirable readings of five other standards including “Skylark” and an overlooked gem by the Gershwin brothers, “Isn’t It a Pity,” and closes with a fresh–faced charmer, Peggy Lee / Jack Marshall’s sprightly “Things Are Swingin’.” Dupuis scats briefly on that one (as she does on Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned”), showing that she still needs some work in that area. But those are among the few smudges in a generally well–polished performance as Dupuis, a relative newcomer to Jazz after years in musical theatre, shows that she’s a pretty quick study. Another minus that’s been turned into a plus is Dupuis’ back–up group. Pianist Bill Mays’ arrangements are properly subdued, the rhythm section is much less boisterous than on I Hear Music,
and trumpeter Marvin Stamm, alto saxophonist Ted Nash and trombonist Jim Pugh add color on several numbers without stepping on the vocalist’s toes. Besides arranging and comping with taste and fluency, Mays collaborated with Mark Murphy on a winsome original composition, “Spring Friend.” We closed our earlier review by noting that “Dupuis has some work ahead of her, but the building blocks are in place. Let’s see what develops.” The development has been both rapid and impressive. As Ebert and Roeper would say, a big thumbs–up for Dupuis’ second album.
Contact:Bearheart Records, P.O. Box 20283, Cherokee Station, New York, NY 10021–0064; www.catherinedupuis.com