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Myrna Lake: Yesterdays

Chris Mosey By

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Yesterdays, vocalist Myrna Lake's second album, follows softly—as opposed to hard—on the heels of her independently released 2002 debut, Close Enough, when she was a spry young thing of 67. A late starter? Well, not really. Lake started singing three-part harmony with her father and sister at age six, and by 14 was performing with the Civic Opera company in her home city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Nowadays she lives in New York City where, health permitting, she works as a vocal instructor with the Jazz Mobile and at the Queens Conservatory of Music in Flushing. She also sits in with diverse bands in clubs such as Small's. "Small's is nice. I'd like to work there more often," she says.

It's appropriate that the opening number of this set with the Ruslan Khain Band, Mercer Ellington's "John Hardy's Wife," should be an instrumental—a showcase for the considerable, very swinging talent of pianist Roman Ivanoff. After this introductory track, Lake comes to the fore, just as she might in a club setting.

Her first number is an interesting choice. Johnny Mercer wrote "Mandy Is Two" for his daughter Amanda. Lake changes the title to "Ula Would Be Two," making it a memorial for Sulamif "Ula" Simkin—a daughter of friends of the band who choked to death at the tragically young age of four months, around he time the album was being recorded.

Lake has a deep, very rich voice. "When I came to New York, I auditioned at Radio City and was told I could sing but didn't carry well," she says. "So I took lessons from Silas Engum, who taught Andy Williams. That's how I learned to sing with my whole body. I sing from my feet right up to the tips of my eyebrows. It makes me feel good... makes everybody feel good."

Perhaps the most successful number here is Gershwin's "The Man I Love," taken at a fair clip, with Lake scatting and impishly playing around with the melody. There are also nice solos from saxophonist Yaron Elyashiv and guitarist Andrei Ryabov.

The best of the ballads is Jerome Kern's title track, nicely arranged by Khain to showcase Lake's emotional delivery. On this and Duke Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," it's extremely difficult to believe she's as old as she is.

Among the other numbers, Lake has unfortunately revived the ultra precious "Nature Boy," written by eden ahbez, who spelled his name that way because he said only God warranted capitalization.

"Mandy Is Two" is reprised in conventional form as the album's closing number. Mercer's song, a veritable hymn to the joys of married life and fatherhood, was written as he was starting a torrid extramarital affair with Judy Garland. Funny old world, isn't it?

Track Listing: John Hardy's Wife; Ula Would Be Two (Mandy Is Two); I Fall In Love Too Easily; The Man I Love; Yesterdays; The Nearness of You; Nature Boy; Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me; What Is This Thing Called Love; How Deep Is The Ocean; Mandy Is Two.

Personnel: Myrna Lake: vocals; Ruslan Khain: bass and arrangements. Roman Ivanoff: piano. Andrei Ryabov: guitar; Yaron Elyashiv: saxophone; Will Terrill: drums; Efrat Shapira: strings ensemble.

Title: Yesterdays | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Jazzing Music


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