As we press on into the new millennium, the art of vocal jazz often appears to be in sad stagnation, a dull morass of worn-out standard rehashes and textbook lounge-lizard delivery. Thankfully, most thankfully, there is Kayle.
Pennsylvania diva Kayle Brecher breaks more new ground with her exquisite third album. As always, the vivacious Ms. Brecher injects bold new spirit into familiar material and conjures up some exciting, original surprises. She is a master at finding the hidden potential in songs, polishing them up and presenting them in a most tempting way. Her own compositional skills are also noteworthy; some of her originals may have the potential to become future standards of vocal jazz.
The disc begins languidly with a rendition of "Summertime" that flows like a steamy creek through a Southern wood, then unexpectedly picks up the pace. Track 5, a Freddie Hubbard standard, is exotically embroidered with vibes and high vocal howls. The album includes two cool, smooth duets. The Neil Hefti chestnut (Track 2) is a hoot, a humorous, swinging romp with Harry Salloti's tuba, and Track 6 receives a beautiful duo interpretation, Frank Butrey's guitar adding dead-on lyrical support behind Brecher's soulful singing. On the Jefferson Airplane tune (Track 4) Kayle is backed by Tony Miceli's lush vibes and Armen Halburian's percussion. Another surprise inclusion, the seldom-heard Beatles tune at Track 9, is revamped into a bittersweet blues.
Several of Brecher's originals are also on tap, including the angular Track 3 and an exotic reinterpretation of Track 7, the title track of her first album. The disc closes with a delicious piece by Boston composer Darrell Katz. This piece is based on a Sherwood Anderson text and was originally written for Katz' wife, poet/vocalist Paula Tatarunis, but Kayle masterfully reshapes it to fit her own compelling image. Brecher is a breath of fresh air in the stale world of vocal jazz. Let her take you on a guided tour through the city of her soul.
(Penchant Four Records, distributed by Original Cast, P.O. Box 496, Georgetown, CT 06829; 203-544-8288)
Track Listing: 1) Summertime Prelude/Summertime; 2) Lil? Darlin; 3) All Directions; 4) Today; 5) (Back To The) Red Clay; 6) Cry Me A River; 7) Choices; 8) Humdrum Blues; 9) Things We Said Today; 10) An Elegant Tale; 11) Like A Wind.
Personnel: Kayle Brecher, vocals, percussion; David Dzubinski, Michael Louis Frank, piano; Tony Miceli, vibes; Harry Salloti, tuba; Howie Thompson, Micah Jones, Vince Fay, Chico Huff, bass; Frank Butrey, guitar; Edgardo Cintron, Armen Halburian, percussion; Bill Jones, Grant MacAvoy, Tom Poitras, drums.