Singer, actress, screenwriter and lyricist Deborah Pearl's debut is a souvenir of a very special "you": alto saxophonist and composer Benny Carter. Pearl has taken 13 of Carter's compositions, added her own lyrics, and produced a lovingly-crafted collection that's a worthy addition to the Carter canon. His instrumental presence is also stamped firmly on the album, thanks to the ability of modern technology to combine Pearl's voice with the Benny Carter Big Band on two tracks.
Pearl, Carter and his wife Hilma were friends in Los Angeles, and the two women stayed in touch following Carter's death in 2003. Indeed, Hilma gave her blessing to this project and Pearl's respect for Hilma and Benny shines clearly across all of her lyrics. Pearl's voice is a joy to heartranslating the emotions of the songs with ease, whether they are joyous and fun, romantic, or tinged with regret.
Pearl overdubs her voice onto two Carter Big Band performances from a 1992 concert recording. "Happy Feet (At The Savoy)" is eminently successful, an up-tempo, lively and danceable tune. The opening verse of "Anniversary Dance" features just Pearl's vocal and Lou Forestieri on piano and is lovely but the combination of voice and big band doesn't work quite so well. Pearl seems less confident on this tune; nevertheless it's still a pleasant song.
On the rest of the songs Pearl is accompanied by Forestieri on keyboards, plus the bass and drums of Chris Colangelo and Dave Karasony, or Kenny Wild and Jimmy Branly. These small band numbers work beautifully, giving Pearl space to bring her vocals to the fore and offering Forestieri opportunities for some lyrical soloing. Carter wrote "Souvenir of You" as a tribute to the great altoist Johnny Hodges. Pearl's lyrics make it a moving tribute to Carter, too, and a fitting end to a beautiful album.
Happy Feet (At the Savoy); Wonderland (Isle Of Love); People Time (Forever Mine); Doozy Blues; Sunday Morning Comes; Scattin' Back to Harlem; Again and Again (I Try To Pretend); Anniversary Dance; Johnny True; Sail Away With Me; An Elegy In Blue; Sky Dance For Two; Souvenir of You.
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