I have to admit in the past two years there are a couple of things that have become clear to this critic. Every attractive girl "thinks" they can sing but in reality they shouldn't go within twenty miles of the nearest studio to cut a record and judging a book by the cover is wrong on about a hundred different levels.
Now I say this because I didn't initially dig the cover art combined with the over two hundred female singers that I have reviewed with only about two dozen qualifying as "memorable."
Maria Jacobs goes in the more than memorable pile and the cover art actually pairs up with an eclectic song list nicely! So what makes Art of The Duo work? Jacobs deconstructs some amazing tunes by pairing up just the guitarist, pianist and stand up bass player to freshen up some classic songs that time and some other artists have not necessarily been kind to. "It Could Happen To You" is the iconic Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke number that also happens to be a personal favorite. Jacobs and guitarist Steve Cipriano have an amazing synergy on how to reharm a tune with a pop of vitality and allow Jacobs to own this version. Cipriano's playing fits hand in glove with the phrasing of Jacobs and the harmonic riff on this classic is sultry, warm, and one of the better versions you may run across. "Summertime" from George and Ira Gershwin is a jazz version of that sexy little black dress. Jacobs scat singing is the equivalent of textured spun gold throughout this textured melodic feast for the senses. Don't get me wrong, this is not simply a recording of standards which would be all to easy for Jacobs and friends to simply slay. Not having been a big Phoebe Snow fan, "Poetry Man" gave me some cause for some wasted concern. A beautiful reharm that respects the original and allows Jacobs that perfect opportunity to show how her skills translate effortlessly across genre and generation. This particular cover along with the Lennon and McCartney classic "I Will" are fresh, contemporary and effervescent in presentation, there are simply no bumps in the road here.
For some singers and the "female jazz singer" club is a closely packed bunch where 75% would be advised to not consider anything past church choir, karaoke night or perhaps the occasional gig at the local Hilton, Maria Jacobs gives a vocal masterclass. A vocal artist and story teller that seems born to do exactly what she is doing. Tony Dumas is a first call bassist and as lyrically fluid as they come. Bob Fraser is another guitarist that is a perfect fit and keyboardist Dan Maier plays off Jacobs changing meter and dynamics on the fly for just another layer of texture.
I have a bad habit of holding an Independent artist to a higher standard but as an Independent writer perhaps it is my way of giving what I get as well. Given the right people, the right label and proper direction my only question is when not if a major label might give her a shot.
Tracks: Alone Together; Small Day Tomorrow; Too Close For Comfort; It Could Happen To You; Summertime; Nearness of You; Poetry Man; I Will; Yeh Yeh.
Thanks to Jim at Jazz Promo Services.