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Rachel Caswell: We're All in the Dance

Mark Sullivan By

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If you want proof of singer Rachel Caswell's jazz chops, you could skip right to the last two tracks. She scats the head of bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker's evergreen "Dexterity" along with guitarist (and producer) Dave Stryker, then blends in with the rest of the band for a round of solos. Sticking with the bebop theme, pianist Thelonious Monk's "Reflections" is a beautiful ballad, this time with lyrics from singer Jon Hendricks. It is a feature for the voice and pianist Fabian Almazan.

The rest of the program is an eclectic collection of (mostly) love songs. Sting's bossa nova "Fragile" opens with sister Sara Caswell's violin, a welcome addition on three of the tracks. After a relaxed, swinging rendition of the melody there's a violin solo and a scat solo. There is no law that a jazz singer must scat, but Caswell has an easy way with it. Stryker and Almazan trade eights for their solo section. The title tune is a lovely Will Jennings waltz: probably the farthest thing from the jazz canon in the set, but a beautiful setting for voice and violin.

Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care" is given a vertiginous reading, Caswell's dazzling fast lyrical wordplay followed by an equally spry scat solo. The rest of the band jumps in with equal aplomb for their solos. Other highlights include the Ray Charles classic "Drown In My Own Tears," a deep dive into the blues, featuring an especially strong guitar solo. Pianist Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me A Bedtime Story" (with lyrics by Tom Lellis) takes a funk direction, a showcase for Caswell's vocals and Almazan's Fender Rhodes playing.

This is a great band—and both bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Jonathan Blake should also be mentioned, for their energy as part of the rhythm section as well as fine solos—and there is a real band feeling throughout. Caswell is the star, but she's no diva. She is much better than that: a jazz musician in the company of other jazz musicians.

Track Listing: Fragile; A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; We're All in the Dance; Devil May Care; Two for the Road; Drown in My Own Tears; I Didn't Know What Time It Was; Tell Me a Bedtime Story; Dexterity; Reflections (Looking Back)

Personnel: Rachel Caswell: vocals; Dave Stryker: guitar; Fabian Almazan: piano & fender rhodes; Linda May Han Oh: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums; Sara Caswell: violin

Title: We're All in the Dance | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Turtle Ridge Records

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