Ms. BB Cooper is first and foremost a songwriter whose tunes lend themselves to interpretation by a wide variety of singers and instrumentalists. For Uneasy Street, two of Britain's premiere vocalists, Barb Jungr and Ian Shaw, are well-chosen to show another side of Cooper's emotive pen. While her last offering, The Best of British Vocal Jazz, was heavily dosed with fresh, sparkling performances, Uneasy Street is a dual-gender take on life's flip side. Here, Cooper's music makes it possible for her lyricists, vocalists and Ian Shaw's arrangements to explore situations and feelings that are emotionally difficult, with powerful results.
Shaw sits in on keyboards to anchor an ensemble that includes drummer Mark Fletcher, the sensitive strings of violinist Brian Wright and cellist Terry Ekert, and the expressive trumpet of Jim Dvorak. The title cut makes good use of Barb Jungr's emotive voice in the context of enticing cabaret instrumentation to invite a walk down "Uneasy Street, where "...every window is bleeding and every signal misleading.
Jungr next delivers her own lyrics against a tension-filled backdrop of strings and surprising Middle Eastern breaks on "Wreck of the Playground, before she informs her ex-lover that it will be impossible to "Forget, in the presence of an intense beat and touching trumpet soliloquy. Jungr ends her set with a plea to "Prove Me Wrong, before Shaw's solo piano enables quiet emotional introspection on the soulful "Waltz in Blue.
Shaw's distinctive phrasing and singular voice then take over to make "The Dark House starker and more desolate for its solitary female inhabitant. He then passionately rails on "And Swing, before Ekert's cello skillfully combines with Shaw's voice to turn the pathos of "We Might Win into an elegant statement. "The Bruise concludes with a deceptive healing that allows us all to continue.
BB Cooper hearkens back to a time when names like Berlin, Rodgers or Bacharach were equal in importance to those of the band and the singer. There is no one else in the mainstream, or any stream for that matter, who is able to release albums comprised entirely of their own new music and have it performed as eloquently.
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