If singer Erna Ferry's name is new to you, that's more than likely because she's a New Zealander who makes her home in that lovely faraway island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. Ferry, a jazz singer with bluesy overtones, is backed on Wild About You by the exemplary Rodger Fox Big Band, the very best that New Zealand has to offer. The band, in fact, is so formidable that one could be excused for presuming that this is the Rodger Fox Big Band featuring Erna Ferry.
That, however, is certainly not the case. Ferry sings (and sings well) on every number, from W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" to Robben Ford's "Wild About You." Sandwiched between are five jazz / pop / blues staples and a trio of lesser-known themes: David Cantor's "Once Had a Woman," Bruce Brown's "Love of My Life" and Sharon O'Neil's "Maxine." The others are Bobby Timmons' "Moanin,'" Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," Duke Ellington's "I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues," Don Raye / Gene DePaul's "You Don't Know What Love Is" and George Gershwin's "Summertime."
Ferry sings each one in a clear mid-range voice with enough come-hither essence to entice and engage the ear. As her range isn't wide, the charts have been carefully written to assure that the boundaries pose no challenge. Ferry is at her bluesy best on "Wild About You," "Nothin' But the Blues" and (believe it or not) "Summertime," her breeziest on "Honeysuckle Rose" and "St. Louis Blues." In every mode, the band is sharp and supportive, blowing with discernment and enthusiasm. Trombonist Fox solos on "Moanin,'" "Love of My Life" and "You Don't Know What Love Is," and there are cogent statements along the way by tenor saxophonists Mike Isaacs ("St. Louis Blues") and Colin Hemmingsen ("Once Had a Woman," "Summertime"), guitarist Nick Granville (featured on "Wild About You") and pianist Anita Schwabe (Fender Rhodes on "Summertime").
Make no mistake, this is Ferry's album, even though having Fox's band at her beck and call doesn't hurt the cause. If you'd like a closer look, she'll doubtless be singing and swinging with the band at the 2017 Monterey (CA) Jazz Festival.
Track Listing: St. Louis Blues; Moanin’; Once Had a Woman; Honeysuckle Rose; Love of My Life; I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Maxine; Summertime; Wild About You.
Personnel: Erna Ferry: vocals, with the Rodger Fox Big Band – Rodger Fox, music director, trombone; Jon Papenbrook: trumpet; Ben Hunt: trumpet; Lex French: trumpet (4-6, 8); Sebastian Soldrzynski: trumpet; Chris Selley: trumpet; Mike Booth: trumpet (1); Chris Buckland (1-3, 7, 9, 10), Alex Nyman (4-6, 8), Hayden Hockley, Colin Hemmingsen, Mike Isaacs, Andre Paris: saxophones; Christopher Fox: trombone; Dean Scott: trombone; Damian Forlong: trombone; Kurt Gibson: bass trombone; Nick Granville: guitar; Anita Schwabe: piano; Rowan Clark: bass (1-3, 7, 9, 10); Nick Tipping: bass (4-6, 8); Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa: drums (1-3, 7, 9, 10); Lance Philip: drums (4-6, 8).