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Liane Carroll: Up And Down

Bruce Lindsay By

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Liane Carroll is a much-admired British singer and pianist, winner of accolades including Musician Of The Year at the 2008 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. She has worked with musicians as varied as Sir Paul McCartney and Charlie Haden, while on this album her invited guests include tenor saxophonists Kirk Whalum and Julian Siegel, and Kenny Wheeler on flugelhorn. She already has a strong body of work to her name, but Up And Down might just be her finest album to date.

Carroll's voice is superb—bluesy, smooth, ballsy, cheeky, romantic, heartbreaking, and never less than honest. This combination makes Carroll eminently capable of performances of tremendous emotional intensity—when the songs are upbeat and positive this results in moments of intense joy, when the songs are sad this intensity can be hard to bear.

Aided by producer and horn player James McMillan and a roll-call of top British jazz musicians, Carroll draws out the full impact of these songs in some unexpected ways. The most surprising is her approach to "What Now My Love?" The opening—Carroll singing over Mark Edwards' gospel-style organ with Whalum adding brief tenor phrases—is in keeping with the song's usual sentiment, but everything moves up a few notches with the entry of Mark Hodgson's rock solid bass beat. As Whalum and Edwards add some funky and fiery riffs it's no longer a torch song, a cry of pain from a spurned lover. Now it seems from Carroll's bluesy but almost triumphant tone that she's engineered her lover's departure all along. "What now my love? A nice gin and tonic and a sit down I think. And good riddance."

"Buy and Sell" opens with the sounds of children at play, features electric guitar with an Ernie Isley vibe courtesy of Mark Jaimes and an electric piano solo from Edwards, and adds a vocal chorus courtesy of Carroll's multi-tracked voice. The result gives a fittingly late-60s feel to this beautiful Laura Nyro song. Wheeler guests on Bill Evans' "Turn Out The Stars," adding a starkly emotive solo to Carroll's poignant vocal.

Carroll's singing on Tom Waits' "Take Me Home" and Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" are two of her finest vocals. The emotional engagement of both performances is staggering. On Waits' ballad Carroll, playing some delicate and graceful piano phrases, makes a heartfelt plea to her lover that would melt all but the hardest of hearts. On "My Funny Valentine," Carroll, Edwards on piano and McMillan on flugelhorn give one of the album's most powerful performances: superbly stark and raw, it reaches into the song's heart to draw out the full poignancy of the words.

Up And Down is beautiful. The song choices and arrangements are inspired, and the musicians are uniformly superb. Carroll is a singer of superb style, capable of projecting every nuance and subtlety of a lyric. What more is there to say? This is one of the finest vocal jazz albums to appear for many a moon.

Track Listing: Buy and Sell; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? Moanin'; Take Me Home; What Now My Love?; Turn Out The Stars; Some Children See Him; Witchcraft; My Funny Valentine; Old Devil Moon/Killer Joe; Make Someone Happy; I Can Let Go Now.

Personnel: Liane Carroll: vocals, piano (1, 2, 4, 8, 12); James McMillan: trumpet (1), flugelhorn (1, 2, 7, 9), celesta (2); Mark Bassey: trombone (2, 4, 7); Rob Leake: flute (2); Mark Edwards: piano (3, 6, 9, 10), Hammond organ (3, 5), electric piano (1); Simon Purcell: piano (11); Mark Jaimes: guitar (1, 12); Roger Carey: bass (4, 6, 8, 10); Mark Hodgson: bass (2, 3, 5); Steve Pearce: bass (1); Mark Fletcher: drums; Julian Siegel; tenor saxophone (11); Kirk Whalum: tenor saxophone (3, 5); Kenny Wheeler: flugelhorn (6).

Title: Up And Down | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Quietmoney Recordings

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