Two talented vocalists, top-class musicians, inspired song selections, a few new lyrics and a genuinely original set of arrangements come together to make Reunion
: a fresh-sounding and charming album from Australian singers Trudy Kerr and Ingrid James. Kerr, based in London since 1990, and James have been friends for many years. Each of them has toured and recorded extensively but surprisingly, given the obvious empathy between them, this is their first recording together.
Kerr and James' voices are distinctive and complementary. Jameswho appears in the left channelhas the slightly brighter, more crystalline, voice. Kerr, using the right channel, has a softer edge to her voice that gives her sound greater sensuality. Neither is a bluesy shouter, but apart from that they have pretty much all of the vocal bases covered.
The singers have delved into contemporary song, jazz standards, '70s soft-rock and even the Australian tradition to create Reunion
. Songs by Steve Allen
and Bob Dorough
represent the standards. Allen's "This Could be the Start of Something Big" kicks off the album with a superb duet and a swinging arrangement inspired by Jon Hendricks
. Dorough's "Baby You Should Know It" has a slinky groove that's heightened by the vocal delivery from both singers.
There is a strong sense of humor pervading the album, too. It's typified by "Soft Shoe:" the arrangement is based on the original, from composer Gerry Mulligan
's Quartet, but Kerr and James extend the shoe theme by vocalizing about their favorite footwearJames sings lovingly of her Jimmy Choos, Kerr describes a bewildering array of styles and finishes, Sebastiaan de Krom's brushes create a well-fitting shuffle beat while Geoff Gascoyne underpins the vocals with, of course, a funky walking bass line.
A slightly darker edge to the humor appears on "A Little Crazy"Bud Powell
's "Un Poco Loco" with added lyrics from Kerr that were inspired by fictional serial killer Dexter
. Tom Cawley
's piano solo is terrificlight, delicate and bouncy. There's also a version of "Waltzing Matilda." The song has been called Australia's unofficial National Anthem, so its inclusion isn't surprising, but it is a bit of an oddity. The tale of swagmen, billabongs, tucker bags and jumbucks is given a romantic ballad-style arrangement which hints at hitherto unimagined sexual undertones.
The loveliest song on the album is "When My Anger Starts to Cry," by Beate Lech of Norwegian band Beady Belle. Kerr and James stick very closely to Beady Belle's own arrangement of this haunting composition. Their voices capture the sadness and the mystery of the song's imagery perfectly: Gascoyne, de Krom and Cawley create an ideal musical atmosphere. Reunion
is immediately enjoyable: everyone on the album sounds like they were having fun and this readily translates to the performances. The vocal partnership between Kerr and James is delightfula second reunion will hopefully be on the cards soon.