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Shifting Sands: Velvet Mantle

Dan McClenaghan By

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Velvet Mantle, by the British duo Shifting Sands, explores a richly atmospheric, bluesy mid-tempo territory of jazz sounds. Deborah Winters is the vocalist; Jo Landers sits in the piano chair. Both musicians are classically trained, and their delivery, given that training, has the high polish one would expect, while still sounding organic and spontaneous.

The duo's obvious classical training is tinted by their jazz influences. For vocalist Winter, it's Ellington, Miles Davis, Patricia Barber, Kurt Elling and Mark Murphy. The purity of tone, voice-as-an-instrument and glowing resonance suggest the Kurt Elling influence primarily—a rich, mellow tone, with full control, clarinet-like (as opposed to Elling's flugelhorn-like sound) in its fluid movement from note to note, with a remarkable range. Lander found that the calls of Miles Davis, Bill Evans and John Lewis drew her to jazz. Her style is economical and understated, sometimes quirky, and it's this study in contrasts that makes the duo's sound such a success.

The fourteen tunes are all originals, Winter/Lander-penned, and they fit together with a seamless cohesion. The second tune is entitled "Haunting Melody," and you could call that sentiment the theme for the disc. These is hauntingly pretty music, the interplay of voice and piano joyously simpatico.

Velvet Mantle is cool-toned, pared-down music. It would be interesting to hear the duo expand to a quartet with bass and drums.

Track Listing: Velvet Mantle; Haunting Melody; Ocean Sound; Aurora's Flame; Persephone's Darkness; Pieces; Sculpture; Cerulean Blue; Beauties of the Past; Kaleidoscope; Woman in White; Let It Go; Feather; Magadi.

Personnel: Deborah Winter: vocals, backing vocals (9,10,14); Jo Lander: piano, backing vocals (2,7,8,12).

Title: Velvet Mantle | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

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