Stacey Kent at Birdland

Nick Catalano By

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After appearing in 18 countries on a world tour in support of their Warner Brothers CD The Changing Lights, Stacey Kent and her conductor/arranger/ saxophonist (and husband of 22 years) Jim Tomlinson wound up their travels at Birdland during the week of December 3rd. Transcending genres and national boundaries, the elfin-voiced multi-lingual Kent who has sung in French, Italian, German and Portuguese has won over fans worldwide and attained new dimensions of jazz internationalism. Her album sales exceed 1.3 million in a 15 year recording career which has reached an apotheosis with the current CD.

Kent, Tomlinson and their bandmates (Art Hirahara,Tom Hubbard, Phil Hey) performed a delicately arranged sequence of Brazilian hits ("How Insensative," "One Note Samba," This Happy Madness" etc.) which have been the mainstay of their recording success. But it was the original songs composed by Tomlinson (music) and novelist/screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro (lyrics) that made the evening unique. This composing duo's creations have already marked previous Kent CDs with critical triumph i.e. "Breakfast on the Morning Train," "The Ice Hotel," but their new material outpaces former work. "Waiter, Oh Waiter," "The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain," and the CD's title tune "The Changing Lights" score dramatically. The selections contain intriguing narratives with poetical lyrics and subtle intervallic changes. The new tunes seem to flow naturally when juxtaposed with the enormously popular sambas. Their accessibility is immediate and had patrons mouthing the words as they left the club.

The set also included collaborations with Portuguese poet Antonio Ladeira ("Mais Uma Vez") and French Lyricist Bernie Beaupere ("Chanson Legere"). Kent's impressive command of nuances in so many languages and the ease with which she moves from one musical tradition to another have been the hallmarks of her previous successes. The present CD should bring new momentum.

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