During his lifetime Mal Waldron teamed with some great jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday. He was never afraid of taking chances with his music, often flying in the face of convention. He chose to express himself in modes that gave unusual shape and texture to his compositions. Those traits are in evidence here. In one of his last recordings, he finds the right complement in another singer, Judi Silvano, who gives voice to song with an assurance that delves deep into the pith of the words.
Waldron’s music can take unusual twists. He can jump into the angular with a quick turn while coasting along a straight line. He can loosen whorls of sound, the bass thundering and then glide into the middle register. In the quieter moments he creates textures bathed in deep emotional beauty, of which “Soul Eyes” is the exemplar here, his playing setting the mood for Silvano who wraps herself round it for a stunning piece of work.
Silvano has a pliable voice, the timbre deep and warm. She builds atmosphere convincingly, making loneliness a wrenching experience on “Finding My Love”. The dense permutations of “Eyes On You" serve to spotlight her vocalese, with Waldron casting a spell through jagged lines that slip into a cascade before coming back full circle. Silvano can also whoop it up, scatting with verve and abandon while doing some “Cattin’”, even if the vocals are overdubbed and layered.
Oddly enough the last song here, “Mal Waldron,” is a tribute from Silvano and Joe Lovano that succinctly encapsulates his presence on the scene. It turns out to be an appropriate eulogy.