By ordinary standards, Barbara Adamson has taken up the tools of jazz relatively late in her vocal career. Now in her late 30's, Now Is the Time is her debut album. Adamson has chosen a play list of standards sprinkled with a couple of Bop tunes. A heavy diet of familiar material notwithstanding, she freshens it considerably with some interesting, modern arrangements. They are ordered in a such way as to emphasize the contrast in delivery and arrangements She also has wisely chosen stellar musicians to be with her as she debuts. Marshall Otwell, on piano who was with Carmen McRae for eight years, along with bassologist Stan Poplin, who has worked with James Moody and Dave Brubeck. The proceedings are buoyed up by the presence of guests Fred Berry (of Louis Bellson Orch. fame), Paul Contos and Donny McCaslin on trumpet/flugelhorn and flute/tenor saxophone, respectively.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of jazz musicians-vocalists and instrumentalists alike-who have taken to a tune written by Oscar Hammerstein and Sigmund Romberg for their operetta New Moon, and made popular by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Yet "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" has been waxed by the likes of Bobby Darrin, Rebecca Parris, Kendra Shank, June Christy among others. Oh, what those chord changes will do! Adamson's medium tempo, sensually anticipatory rendition needn't take a back seat to any version. Paul Contos' swinging flute helps make this tune one of the album's finer musical moments. This up tempo piece contrasts nicely with the following tune "I Thought About You" which Adamson delivers with a voice caressed with wounded poignancy sustained by Fred Berry's muted, soulful trumpet. There's even further contrast with Adamson's approach to "Bye Bye Blackbird" introduced with a spooky opening reminding me of the squeaking door in the old radio serial Inner Sanctum, a sensation helped along by Stan Poplin's bowed bass. She then seques into a brighter, medium tempo with Steve Robertson's drums taking over the role as lead instrumentalist. Poplin returns with plucked guitar-like bass in duet with Robertson to wrap things up. An intriguing, different, arrangement, indeed. Marshall Otwell's pianistic skills come into play as he and Adamson engage in assured and confident ballad playing on "It's Easy to Remember" and "You Go to My Head". Adamson foregoes the lyrics to Mikes Davis' "Boplicity" opting to select this as the sole tune where she shows off her scatting skills reminiscent of Annie Ross. Like every other cut, this is a cooperative effort with the instrumentalists chipping in to make this tune work including flugelhorn by Fred Berry, piano by Otwell, a stirring sax solo by McCaslin, with Poplin's bass holding everything and everybody together to keep the pot boiling.
This album is highly recommended. Visit Barbara on her web site www.barbaraadamson.com.
Tracks:Just in Time; April in Paris; Softly as in a Morning Sunrise; I Thought about You; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; It's Easy to Remember; Yesterdays; Bye Bye Blackbird; Boplicity; You Go to My Head; I Wished on the Moon; Get It Straight.
Personnel: Barbara Adamson - vocals; Fred Berry - trumpet/flugelhorn;Paul Contos - flute; Donny McCaslin - tenor saxophone ;Marshall Otwell - piano; Stan Poplin -bass; Steve Robertson - drums/percussion