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This intimate look at the recordings of Maxine Sullivan by vocalist Sally Stark is an unusual retrospective in its directness and simplicity. Many projects of similar intent suffer from either an overly sentimental approach or the opposite, a cynically "retro" feel that leaves the material polished into glib sterility. Refreshingly, Stark presents the album’s ten tunes in an unadorned and straightforward manner, and this pared-down honesty ultimately rescues the album.
By approaching Sullivan more affectionately than reverentially, Stark allows the out-of-date elements to remain outdated, and in doing so all the more effectively underscores the moments of depth and universality embedded in many of Sullivan’s originals. Pianist Michael Abene’s period-appropriate arrangements and the overall musicianship of all involved transform highlight pieces like “Harlem Butterfly,” “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now,” and the gorgeously produced “Loch Lomand” into gentle reminders of the simple pleasures of jazz’s yesteryear, and they also allow even less successful pieces like “Massachusetts and “I’m Crazy About My Baby” to raise a smile.
Instead of just another backwards-looking rehashing of jazz’s “golden age," Stark and company have distinguished themselves by producing a self-contained album of dedication to an individual’s talent and the time to which that talent belonged. Taken in this light, the museum-piece quality of the album, and even some of its at times frustrating quaintness, is not only justifiable, but guiltily endearing.
Track Listing: 1. Someday Sweetheart 2. I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby 3. Restless 4. Spring Isn't Everything 5. Massachusetts 6. Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now 7. Harlem Butterfly 8. It's Crazy 9. A Hundred Years From Today 10. Loch Lomand
Personnel: Sally Stark: Vocals;
Mike Abene: Piano;
Chip Jackson: Bass;
Dennis Mackrel: Drums;
James Chirillo: Guitar;
Michael Hashim: Saxophone;
Warren Vache: Trumpet.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.