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Connie Evingson: Sweet Happy Life

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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There are surprises galore and much to be enjoyed in Sweet Happy Life, from fine Minneapolis-based vocalist, Connie Evingson. Perhaps the most immediate of those discoveries, even before a listen, is the canon of work from Grammy and Academy Award-winning lyricist, Norman Gimbel, to whose oeuvre this CD is a tribute.

With Sweet Happy Life Evingson and her mates superbly cover some of the most well-known selections in popular music. The fascinating thing is that Gimbel, while not as immediately recognizable as the Johnny Mercers of the music world, has written the verbiage to all of these and other songs—some of the most famous, chart-topping standards in the book. So, the spotlight shines here on phrases, verbal nuances and surprises within such selections as "The Girl from Ipanema," "Canadian Sunset," "Bluesette," "Killing Me Softly with His Song," and many easily recognized others. The list startles.

Evingson is supremely up to the task of framing and saluting Gimbel's work with her delightful voice, superb diction, timing and phrasing. A fine jazz interpreter as well, Evingson swings and, when she chooses to stretch out scatting in unison with her associates, she indeed cooks. Gimbel's lines in the hands of a lesser vocal talent would still shine, but, certainly not as brightly.

There are a dozen-and-a-quarter Gimbel-scripted tunes performed in a straightforward style where word rules in supreme complement to gorgeous melody. The accompanying musicians all buy into Evingson's effort, perfectly showcasing—but never overshadowing—her elegant stylings. Saxophonist Dave Karr has the unique challenge of playing against the iconic solos of bossa nova master Stan Getz. He shrewdly evokes and salutes the master's methods without sacrificing his own integrity. The multiple pianists, guitarists and rhythm- makers on the session perform seamlessly.

Sweet Happy Life showcases Gimbel's work most appropriately; it's what happens when marvelous lyrics encounter their melodic match by way of a superb vocal artist.

Track Listing: Agua de Beber; Meditation; Slow Hot Wind; Sweet Happy Life; Killing Me Softly With His Song; Canadian Sunset; Watch What Happens; The Girl From Ipanema; Sway; Bluesette; How Insensitive; Take Me To Aruanda; So Nice; Adventure; I Will Wait For You; Tristeza.

Personnel: Connie Evingson: vocals; Danny Embrey: guitar; Joan Griffith: guitar; Andreas Oberg: guitar; Laura Caviani: piano; Tanner Taylor: piano; Phil Aaron: piano; Bob Bowman: bass; Gordon Johnson: bass, background vocals; Ryan Cross: bass; David Schmalenberger: drums; Joe Pulice: drums, percussion; Phil Hey: drums; Rob Perkins: drums; Dave Karr: saxophone, clarinet, flute; Randy Sabien: violin, mandolin; Josh Alvaro: percussion; Miles Hanson: percussion; Lucia Newell: background vocals.

Title: Sweet Happy Life | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Minnehaha Music

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