Peggy Chew is a Chinese American singer who migrated to Europe ending up in Switzerland with stops in London, France and Spain. Having studied with Jay Clayton, Norma Winstone and Anne Marie Moss, Chew is well steeped in the vocal arts. Real Days is her third album and the first for the Swiss label, Altri Suoni.
Chew provides significant space on the play list for Charles Mingus and Joni Mitchell. One of the album's high points comes with Mingus' "Dry Cleaner from Des Moines" - - the tale about a gambling spree in Las Vegas with lyrics by Mitchell - - is done vocalese by Chew. The track also contains a lengthy musical conversation between Tony Renold's snare and Dominique Girod's bass. Very inventive stuff. And Chew manages to avoid the trap that vocalese singers fall into too often, namely, sounding somewhat frazzled. She manages to convey that sense of that special singing style without becoming frazzled.
But the meat of the album is the originals by Ms Chew and pianist Adrian Frey. On "Northern Comfort", Chew gives new meaning to the concept of the voice as an instrument. Completely performed with wordless vocalizing, Chew's voice is a horn added to the trio. "One Step Beyond" is one of the pure ballads on the set, intense with boppish overtones. There's a shift in vocal gears with the title tune "Real Days". Chew continues to show off scatting skills, but in between her voice takes on the mantra of a lead singer in one of the great American musicals of the 1950's or 60's, like Oklahoma or Carousel. Further vocal diversity comes with Jim Croce's classic American hit from 1974, "Time in a Bottle", done in a way that would make it a perfect fit for a children's album. Again, another very effective vocal articulation. Ms Chew's Chinese heritage comes into play with "My Lonely Room" with appropriate Chinese gong backing from the group. The lyrics for the original material are reproduced in the liner notes.
Chew is given a solid base by a phalanx of especially high caliber and sympathetic instrumentalists. Pianist Frey and Chew are obviously of one mind musically. The other members of the rhythm section are not simply relegated to the role of backup, but get plenty of opportunity to share in the soloing. This is a very democratic, sharing album and is recommended.
Track Listing: My Lonely Room; Real Days; One Step Beyond; Northern Comfort; Sweet Sucker Dance; Rain Waltz; The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines; Time in a Bottle; New Tune; Cycle No. 8; Chelsea Morning; Equipoise
Personnel: Peggy Chew - Vocals; Adrian Frey - Piano; Dominique Girod - Bass; Tony Renold - Drums