For many jazz singers, the Great American Songbook is the body of work that must be delved into and reinterpreted. In more recent years, the work of writers such as Tom Waits
and Nick Cave is emerging as the source for some fine jazz-based interpretations. The singer/songwriters of the '70s, perhaps surprisingly, have yet to become such a central part of the jazz vocal canon, but singer Christine Tobin and pianist Liam Noble may be set to change things with Tapestry Unravelled
. This re-visioning of Carole King's multi-million selling Tapestry
(Ode, 1971) is a beautiful, innovative and very personal take on King's songs, which delves deep into the originals' emotions and imagery.
The idea for this album came from Tobin, who was introduced to Tapestry
as a child by her sister Deirdre. After Deirdre's untimely death in 2009, Tobin sang "Beautiful" at her memorial service. Soon afterwards Tobin enlisted Noble, an innovative pianist who has played in the singer's band for some years, to play these songs at a club gig, and the response led them both to Curtis Schwartz's recording studio. The entire album was recorded at a single session.
The songs on Tapestry Unravelled
are instantly recognizable, but Tobin and Noble lend each of them a unique twist. In most cases Noble stays close to the melody, but he's also happy to make the occasional shift and turn to move the tune in unexpected directions. "Smackwater Jack" epitomizes thisa solo piano piece played with a percussive, jagged, style that gives the tune an edge missing from its original incarnation.
Tobin's voice is exceptionalstrong, soulful and capable of delivering slow ballads like "So Far Away" and up-tempo tunes such as "I Feel the Earth Move" with equal skill. Her performance of "You've Got a Friend" is stunninga strong vocal, but with small inflections and shifts in emphasis that reinvigorate the tune and invest the lyric with a genuine emotional resonance. Piano and voice come together most effectively on "So Far Away"Noble keeps it simple, with soft, rich chords that leave plenty of space for Tobin's voice before moving into a delightfully atmospheric solo. A Tobin original, "Closing Time"written specially for the albumis the final track. It's a delicate, slightly mysterious, ballad on which Noble's percussive piano sits perfectly with Tobin's vocal interpretation.
Comparisons with the original Tapestry
will inherently figure largely in discussions about Tapestry Unravelled
, but in many ways do this current recording a disservice. Tobin and Noble have created an extremely affecting collection of beautifully-crafted songs about love and life that stands on its own as a potential classic.