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Carla White: The Sweetest Sounds

Jim Santella By

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Her breathy alto voice sets up a romantic scene for this session of standards. Carla White creates a particularly impressive scene every time she scat sings her way through one of these favorite tunes. Alongside Lew Tabackin, Dean Johnson and Peter Madsen, she's the agile instrumentalist, weaving her voice among their assertive lines. Straight-ahead jazz is timeless. With her ensemble trading fours and interacting seamlessly, White basks in the freedom to be herself.

Not quite as effective on slow, steamy, cabaret-styled ballads, the singer chooses to cast pitch accuracy to the four winds. Pop and R&B, as well, place the singer in a situation where she creates a fair amount of tension through her subtle dissonances. Her original "But I Was Wrong," for example, oozes a charming, contemporary spirit. White's lyrics talk of bittersweet romance and common sense. However, the singer's delivery goes awry. While it's true that interpersonal relationships can sometimes leave you feeling off-pitch, that interpretive spirit is not entirely obvious here. "Alone Together" offers a clearer example, since the piece is presented as a vocal/bass duet. When scat singing beside Johnson, she's a melodic partner with bouncy, carefree lines that remind us how effective jazz can be when improvised. When White's interpreting the song's lyrics, however, a moody cabaret atmosphere pervades the room. It's a style of singing that lends itself more to storytelling than to musical beauty.

Speaking her lines over the hip beat of congas and a wavering bass, White introduces "Love For Sale" with frank drama. The song's theme comes along with more breathy, spoken word interpretation. By the time her pianist joins and White reverts to scat singing, she's got the listening audience in her grasp. It's not the usual take on this familiar standard. White finishes the piece half singing and half speaking. Her unusual choice of pitches when half singing, however, falls short of the mark. Instead of twisting the lyric meaningfully here and there, the singer's unique spirit becomes a distraction.

Accompanied by an excellent ensemble, Carla White presents an out-of-the-ordinary scenario. Where does this unique spirit come from? From within, of course, but there are influencing factors. She's studied jazz history and its substance through recordings. The singer has traveled the world, exploring various cultures. Her studies with Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh seem to have made the greatest impact. Hear for yourself. Three songs from the album are represented at her web site .


Track Listing: Midnight Sun, This Can't Be Love, It's Easy To Remember, But I Was Wrong, Alone Together, Two Lost Souls, Love For Sale, I Didn't Know About You, Day In-Day Out, Bittersweet, The Sweetest Sounds

Personnel: Carla White (vocals), Peter Madsen (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), Tom Rainey (drums), Lew Tabackin (tenor saxophone), Steve Berrios (percussion)

Title: The Sweetest Sounds | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: DIW


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