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Two Interpreters of the Great American Songbook

Jim Santella By

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It doesn't take a degree in music to be able to determine whether you'll like a singer or not. Just listen. It's a natural form of communication that's been in use since before civilization. The human voice may well have provided the very first form of musical exchange. A mother singing to her child, a suitor singing to his prospective mate, or an individual communing with Nature would certainly have found the process convenient.

In truth, most of the singers that we encounter on recordings, on the radio, on television, in the movies, or at a live performance provide us with a welcome session. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority deliver song interpretations that appeal to most of us. We seldom go away mad.

So, it comes down to choices. Which singers do we like the most? Which albums would we take with us to a deserted island? We all have favorites. Finding them is half the fun.

Just as important: which are our favorite songs? Over time, that question finds answers that stick, since repetition makes 'em live in our memories. One pleasant experience leads to another. Once we've heard a wonderful interpretation of "Summertime, for example, we'll always be on the lookout for more. And, chances are, we'll find pleasure in listening to our favorite songs, no matter who is singing them.

No matter. I've located two singers who interpret some of our favorite songs and do it well. Both come recommended for the pleasant manner in which they deliver familiar music.

Wendee Glick
True Colors
Jazzy Plus
2005

Wendee Glick works with a small ensemble that lets her swing gently. Her voice lets each ballad shimmer in the moonlight, while each up-tempo romp swings with clarity. There's a resonant quality in her voice that says, "Relax, everything's natural, and it's time to open up.

Her medley vocal duet with Steve Heck on "My Foolish Heart and 'The Second Time Around stands out for the innovative manner in which they overlap the two songs. It's beautiful.

Ken Peplowski adds energetic clarinet interludes to several numbers, and pianist Eddie Higgins turns in a stellar performance. Together, Glick and her ensemble give each of these favorite songs a lovely luster.

True Colors, a mellow ballad by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, lets the singer reveal the passion of love in its most sincere phase. Peplowski adds a suave tenor compliment that shines brightly with gospel overtones, as the singer offers a prescription for eternal peace. With "Deep Purple, she carries gentle bossa nova waves that simmer in the sunshine. When she reaches up high for the song's momentary points of emphasis, you can feel the genuine quality in her voice. The combination of genuine singer and outstanding instrumentalists makes for a comfortable afternoon.

Kelley Johnson
Music is the Magic
Sapphire
2005

Kelley Johnson also works with a stellar ensemble that supports her admirably. She loves to share the spotlight with her band. They give her performance a powerful drive that matches her vibrant vocal delivery.

Johnson has an uplifting brightness in her vocal delivery that means you'd never miss her in a crowd. Her lovely voice stands out for its emphatic clarity and for its direct approach. She knows exactly where she's going with every phrase.

With "Old Devil Moon, she sashays brilliantly over its familiar lyrics to achieve a sensual interpretation that features Brian Lynch in a heartbreaking trumpet solo.

With her medley of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? and "God Bless the Child, Kelley pulls the blues out of thin air. The deep feeling with which she interprets these two tear- jerkers guarantees a profound reception. It's genuine.

She interprets Alec Wilder's Moon and Sand as a soothing bolero, complete with a persuasive trumpet, blues-based piano, and light, Latin syncopation. Her vocal interpretation brings impressions of the nighttime shoreline, where the scenery remains peaceful through fog, dew, and gentle waves.

Johnson closes the album with the gentle caress of "What the World Needs Now is Love, performed slowly with feeling. It's different. An upbeat song with lyrics that roll off your tongue, this one closes the session with a mournful ambience, reflecting the seriousness of its lyrics. She's chosen to end this magical session with the stark reality of the state of our world and what it needs today more than ever before. Johnson is a true communicator.


Tracks and Personnel

True Colors

Tracks: Blue Skies; Rainbow Connection; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Orange Colored Sky; Honeysuckle Rose; My Foolish Heart / The Second Time Around; Look for the Silver Lining; Blue Moon; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?; Our Love is Here to Stay; Deep Purple; I'm Beginning to See the Light; Secret Love; True Colors.

Personnel: Wendee Glick: vocals; Ken Peplowski: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Eddie Higgins: piano; Steve Heck: piano, vocals; Marshall Wood: bass; Les Harris, Jr.: drums; Bob Ullman: guitar; Dotti Anita Taylor: flute.

Music is the Magic

Tracks: Lucky To Be Me; Tea for Two; Without a Song; The Tender Trap; Old Devil Moon; Moon and Sand; Music is the Magic / The Celebration Place; Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? / God Bless the Child; When Springtime Turns to Fall; What the World Needs Now is Love.

Personnel: Kelley Johnson: vocals; Brian Lynch: trumpet; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone; Geoffrey Keezer, John Hansen: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass; Jon Wikan: drums; Renato Thomas: percussion.

Visit Kelley Johnson and Wendee Glick on the web.

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