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Carolyn Leonhart: Tides of Yesterday

Marcia Hillman By

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Vocalist Carolyn Leonhart and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery are a young husband-and-wife team, and Tides of Yesterday is their second recorded partnership. And a partnership it is, because this CD (as the liner notes say) is not about a "vocalist with a band or a band with a guest vocalist." Leonhart's sultry and expressive voice acts, at times, as another instrument, contributing scatting and wordless vocals. Both have worked with the band members—Toru Dodo (acoustic and electric piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), Donald Edwards (drums), Jeff Haynes (percussion) and Adam Rogers (guitar)—over the years, so the interplay between all of them is tight and intuitive.

The material includes choices from the standard songbook, jazz classics and three originals with lyrics by Leonhart. The jazz classic standout is Charles Mingus' "Eclipse" (a piece Escoffery plays regularly with the Mingus Orchestra and Big Band), capturing the eerie, moody feeling of the solar phenomenon with the sensitivity of Leonhart's lyric reading and Rogers' playing. Notable also is a bluesy "Sometimes I'm Happy," where Leonhart and Escoffery feature a call-and-response section and some blistering saxophone work. But perhaps the real highlight is "Big Noise, New York," a good song by Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan fame, Leonhart being part of that band's touring ensemble). The reading grabs the attention from the opening moments to the long fadeout, with Leonhart's richly textured voice and Escoffery's energetic fills.

Whether it be for the individual talents of Leonhart, Escoffery and their band mates, their interactions, or the arrangements of the material, more than one listen is needed to appreciate the entire musical tapestry here.

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