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Maureen Kennedy: This Is Always

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Toronto jazz singer Maureen Kennedy clearly owes a good part of her style to the cool femme vocalists of the 1950s and '60s. There's a lot of the vibrato-less vocal technique of singers like Helen Merrill and Irene Kral in her delivery, even though she doesn't particulary sound like either of them.

In addition to having a distinct jazz vocal style, Kennedy stands out on the basis of the song selection on this album, her debut. Half of the dozen tracks are new to me, despite the fact that they were written by composers like Billy Strayhorn, Bob Haymes, Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen, Judy Tate and rock songwriter Nick Drake. Four more tunes fall into the "recorded but not too often" category, leaving only Porter's "Get Out Of Town" and Berlin's "Let's Face The Music and Dance" as familiar standards. If only other emerging jazz singers were able (or willing) to produce a song selection as fresh as this one.

"This is Always," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, has become a meaningful love song that is almost exclusively performed by jazz vocalists. Jobim's "Dreamer," a lilting first-wave bossa nova song with English lyrics by Gene Lees, is a beauty that is rarely heard nowadays. One word of advice: I loved it as a samba, bue only liked it as a jazz ballad.

"The Winter of Our Disconcent," a rather obscure Alec Wilder song, is appropriately aired, as is the late-'60s ballad "Who Knows Where The Time Goes," which was written by British folk singer Sandy Denny and is most associated with the Judy Collins version. I'm familiar with Helen Merrill and Jeri Southern's take on Cole Porter's "After You," but I can't believe that there are too many other versions. Kennedy starts the song off with the verse and then swings it in mid-tempo. As far as the other tunes, I was most impressed by the Burke/Van Heusen piece "Humpty Dumpty Heart" and also admired Bob Haymes' "You For Me" and Strayhorn's "Love Came."

The Nancy Walker Trio, also from Toronto, aptly provides the musical support for Maureen Kennedy on this date. In addition to the pianist, this group features bassist Kevin Overs and drummer Anthony Michelli. Walker, a familiar pianist in Toronto, also supplies arrangements on two tracks.

Track Listing: This Is Always; After You; Get Out Of Town; River Man; Love Came; You For Me; Dreamer; Let's Face The Music And Dance; Humpty Dumpty Heart; Illusion; Winter Of My Discontent; Who Knows Where the Time Goes.

Personnel: Maureen Kennedy: vocals; Nancy Walker: piano; Kieran Overs: bass; Anthony Michelli: drums.

Title: This Is Always | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

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