Erin McDougald is a big-voiced Chicago-based singer who calls herself the "Flapper Girl" after the "flappers" of the 1920s,' looking back on them as emancipated, fearless women. That identity carries into her singing which comes across with a confidence and flair you rarely hear among younger jazz vocalists today. With her voice carrying a low, sultriness mixed with jazzy flexibility, she does not overtly sound like any of the great singers of the past but she has a versatility and freedom that, at various times, can recall Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald or Chris Connor.
Most of the songs on her CD are familiar standards but the arrangements, most of which McDougald worked on, rework them and give them new life. "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" is set to an itchy Cuban groove, "Midnight Sun" is spun into a whirling, tipsy waltz and "The Masquerade Is Over" is played as a gliding bossa nova. McDougald's singing on the entire CD sails beautifully over all the shifting moods and tempos. "Don't Wait Up For Me," in particular, shows the nuanced way she can ride a melody over strong pulsing music from a band that includes a couple of prominent names, Dave Liebman and Tom Harrell.
Liebman's slippery soprano and Harrell's dancing trumpet shine on that track and others like the jumping "Don't Be on the Outside" where they, along with Mark Sherman on vibes and Rob Block on piano, get to solo in the wake of McDougald's sassy, swinging vocal. An intimate blend of tenor sax and guitar supports McDougald's intense purr on her own composition, "Outside the Soiree" while Liebman and Sherman inject bluesy soul into a surprisingly grooving version of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most." "The Man with The Horn," appropriately, is where Harrell shines brightest with his muted, seductive commentary on McDougald's sultry wailing.
The ingenuity of McDougald's arranging really shows in her medley of the rueful classics, "When The World Was Young" and "Ballad of the Sad Young Men." Both are done at a slightly increased tempo. with Rob Block's solo guitar on the first leading into the entire rhythm section supporting graceful singing on the second. "Linger A While" and "Avalon" are combined into a medley of vocal gymnastics done at breakneck speed, with Block and drummer Rodney Green keeping pace with McDougald's flurries of sound. "The Parting Glass" is an old-English drinking song set to a subtle, hard-edged groove that has chiming vibes and bluesy, crying horns engaging in a jazzy rumble beside the singer's serpentine voice.
Erin McDougald is a commanding vocalist who has a commanding power in her voice and the ability to convey sensuality, fire and fun in her music. She surrounds herself with excellent musicians on this CD and creates a standout piece of work.
Don't Be on the Outside; Begin the Beguine; Brother, Can You Spare a Dime; The Man with the Horn; Midnight Sun; Outside the
Soiree; Don't Wait Up for Me; The Masquerade Is Over; Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most; When the World Was Young /
Ballad of All the Sad Young Men; Linger A While / Avalon; Unusual Way; The Parting Glass.
Erin McDougald: vocals, bandleader; Dave Liebman: soprano & tenor saxophones; Tom Harrell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mark
Sherman: vibraphone, percussion; Rodney Green: drums, cymbals; Chembo Corniel: percussion; Rob Block: piano, guitars; Dan
Block: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Cliff Schmitt: bass.