Tributes to legendary jazz greats of the past dot the landscape of today's music, but few can actually boast a direct connection to the artist of homage. Singer Shawnn Monteirolong influenced by the beautiful voice of pianist and vocalist Carmen McRae
is an exception. Her father and godfather, bassist Jimmy Woode
and trumpeter Clark Terry
, respectively, both performed with McRae, and Monteiro grew up listening to stories of their experiences. With To Carmen with Love
, Monteiro pays tribute to a great jazz artist who not only left an indelible mark on the jazz world, but also played an inspirational role in Monteiro's own musical development.
Monteiro and co-producer/pianist Mike Renzi
combed through more than thirty McRae albums and found a group of songs that the singer recorded more than once, indicating some special significance. For her homage, Monteiro performs these very same songs, primarily from The Great American Songbook, her hushed and earthy vocals creating a unique interpretation of McRae's preferred standards. With a core trio of Renzi, bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Steve Langone
, Monteiro begins the tribute with "Old Devil Moon," scatting and swinging over devilish instrumental accompaniment.
The classic "Yesterdays" and Cole Porter
's "I Concentrate on You" seem to find an especially sweet place with the singer, who delivers two emotional statements. McRae performed "Old Black Magic," "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "I Have the Feeling I've Been Here Before" often, and here, Monteiro treats these standards more than well. Bobby Troup
's "Your Looking At Me" and Melissa Manchester
's "Come In From The Rain" are but two of the many soft tunes the singer takes to heart here.
Monteiro continues swinging through the standard repertoireloose and playful on "Mean To Me," bluesy on "Miss Brown (To You), and sultry on the Kurt Weil/Ogden Nash staple "Speak Low." The vocalist closes the set on the Eden Ahbez's Latin-tinged "Nature Boy," introduced by Zinno and completing a tribute to one of the greatest ladies of jazz. Regardless of theme or special circumstance, To Carmen with Love
is one of the better jazz vocal recordings around, and captures a superb performance from the classy Monteiro. Renzi and the trio also deserve mention for their marvelous support, providing the sparkle that helps Monteiro to shine.