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Nicki Parrott: Moon River

Hrayr Attarian By

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It seems, according to some unwritten rule, that most female jazz instrumentalists sooner or later record a vocal album or two. Unfortunately, on these recordings, often passable vocal skills take precedence over superior instrumental talent. Perhaps this is intended to meet the demands of the commercial market, with bassist Nicki Parrott's Moon River a prime example. From the sexy cover photo to the listing of all the songs' lyrics in the booklet (all except one are well-known jazz standards), to limiting her bass playing to a minimum and placing her Blossom Dearie-influenced vocals at the forefront, Moon River appears designed for the more pop-oriented crossover market.

Those familiar with Parrott's work on her superb The Awabakal Suite (parrotmusic, 2001) know her as a superlative bassist, an adventurous composer, and an accomplished improviser. On Moon River, she still solos superbly, but alas, only on two songs, and for only a few choruses at a time. There are, however, a few instances of her delightful comping mixed in with the other instruments.

The focus is, without a doubt, on Parrott's Dearie-like vocals. Even the only original song, "Nicki's Blues," with its risque lyrics, has a melody and cadence very reminiscent of "Blossom's Blues" from Blossom Dearie (Verve, 1957). The rest of the musicians on the date are excellent, but also limit their improvisations to the melody, without venturing far from the theme; hearing saxophonist Harry Allen and drummer Billy Drummond at less than their full potential is a shame.

The recording is impeccable and the sound flawless; even on an average piece of stereo equipment, there's a remarkable feeling of immediacy. A pleasant CD that requires little from the listener, and can function almost as mood music, it's a shame that such a talented bassist has to resort to average singing skills rather than superior musicianship in order to make a commercially viable recording.

Track Listing: Moon River; Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?; Say It Isn't So; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; Takin' A Chance On Love; I Don't Know Enough About You; Makin' Whoopee; Cry Me A River; What A Difference A Day Made; Besame Mucho; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Nicki's Blues; The More I See You.

Personnel: Nicki Parrott: vocal & bass; Harry Allen: tenor sax; John Di Martino: piano; Paul Myers: guitar; Billy Drummond: drums.

Title: Moon River | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Venus Records

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