Bassist Ray Brown did a "Some Of My Best Friends Are..." series of recordings for Teldec shortly before his abrupt death in 2002. That bassist Colin Trusedell has chosen the same theme for his leader debut Some Of My Best Friends Are...Divas is the most auspicious thing about his release. What makes this disc one of the finest released in 2013 is its vacuum-lack of pretension and its critical- mass realized with musicianship. Nevermind that the recital includes the oft-cited "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine," here these warhorses breath anew, deftly lacking any sepia tones or shellac pops (not that those are bad...).
What a delicious treat is Some of my Best Friends are.... Perfectly programmed with a feature tune for bassist Trusedell, the carefully-selected Oscar Pettiford's "Tricotism" as the lone instrumental on the disc coupled with three songs each for three vocalists joining Trusedell for the project. A special balance is achieved between time-honored standards and some newer entries into that same vernacular.
Recently retired from the Navy, where he earned his jazzbones, Trusedell raids the United States Air Force of all of their talent for this recording. The American armed forces have always been a repository of fine musicianship, and Trusedell lifts a corner of that carpet to let some of that talent shine. One of the most attractive things about these artists is their relative anonymity. That, of course, is only at present, as this recording is a fine debut for all.
Singer Krista Joyce shoots an arrow down the middle of the American experience, tackling a straight-ahead "Pennies From Heaven" before slipping through an electric-piano infused "Dock Of The Bay." She closes her section with Little Willie John's "Fever" propelled by Shawn Hanlon's piano rather than Truesdell's bass. She deftly swings through some voice piano doubling into the leader's sturdy soloing. Joyce's scat-singing is top rate and exciting, melding well with Hanlon's boppish figures.
Singer Julie Bradley's muscular alto is all vocalese on Annie Ross' "Twisted," originally based on a tenor saxophone solo by Wardell Gray by the same title. The band achieves swing defying quantum mechanics while Bradley tells us how the cow ate the cabbage. Bradley turns breezy, yet humid on "Besame Mucho." Bradley sings Sting's "Every Little Thing" as her newer offering, giving it a full-throated treatment over an island-vide established by Hanlon.
Victoria Bruyette closes the disc with three older and oft covered extracts from the American Songbook. It takes considerable fortitude to perform "Summertime" and "My Funny Valentine" and no small amount of creative license to arrange these songs in such a way to reveal previously hidden charms. Jacqui Sutton recently turned the Gershwin landmark on its ear on her superlative Notes From the Frontier (Toy Blue Typewriter, 2013). While Bruyette swings "Summertime" with a Janis Joplin freedom better behaved than Joplin's performance. "My Funny Valentine" is distinguished by Hanlon's choppy electric piano and Bruyette's sexual purr. "'Deed I Do" features tenor saxophonist John Dawson navigating with Bruyette the disc's fastest tempo. All tasteful and well done. Some Of My Best Friends Are...Divas is a graceful and elegant recording that swings, swings, swings.
Tricoctism; Pennies From Heaven; Dock Of The Bay; Fever; Twisted; Besame
Mucho; Every Little Thing; Summertime; My Funny Valentine; ‘Deed I Do.
Colin Trusedell: bass; Shawn Hanlon: keyboards; John Dawson: saxophone
(10); Krista Joyce: vocals (2, 3, 4); Julie Bradley: vocals (5, 6, 7);
Victoria Bruyette: vocals (8, 9, 10) .