Monday, March 4, 2013

Caswell Sisters featuring Fred Hersch Alive In The Singing Air TRR 2013

Caswell Sisters Alive in the Singing AirEver hear a lot of good buzz about a movie only to find out the two :30 second trailers aired on television were perhaps the best parts of the movie?

The Caswell Sisters featuring Fred Hersch do not have that problem. Granted that the instrumentation of voice and violin fronting a quintet as opposed to say saxophone or trumpet may seem harmonically disjointed but the great Fred Hersch who is featured on piano sums the release up perfectly, "they think as one." Is it raw chemistry? Is it a harmonious synergy that comes along on the rarest of occasions or perhaps all of the above?

In a song list that runs from some a delightfully penned original by Sara Caswell to some more eclectic selection that run from Hoagy Carmichael to Kenny Dorham, the Caswell Sisters are on point every step of the way. While the Caswell sisters did a good deal of arranging, you do not have a talent the likes of Fred Hersch sit on his hands when it comes time to work on some charts. "Song of Life" and "A Wish" were both arranged by Hersch and capture the essence of what the release seems to be shooting for.

The vocal chops of Rachel Caswell carry a delightful tone and timbre to her delivery. Long story short, no one is approaching vocal jazz in this fashion. Hersch is magnificent on this opening tune. Effervescent runs combined with the ability to change meter if not dynamics on the fly create a dynamic tension that puts some meat on a tune that may otherwise have been ignored. Sara Caswell's talent on violin is on a virtuoso level and thus raises the bar for her contemporaries on a global basis. "Bye Bye Blackbird" is slowed down to an odd meter that allows for a far more descriptive presentation than most reharms allow. Phrasing and inflection of vocalist Rachel Caswell has a most unique sonic depth of field and the texture of Sara Caswell on violin works with impeccable precision. Often the violin is an after thought or perhaps more closely aligned to the gypsy jazz genre, Sara Caswell can turn an often maligned "jazz" instrument into a front line star. Fred Hersch again put his signature talent on this gem and pushes the arrangement to the next level. A closet Kenny Dorham fan, I was enthused with cautious optimism on the cover of the Dorham tune "Asiatic Raes." There is a deceptively subtle yet incredibly complex swing involved that breathes new life into a classic and allows the Caswell Sisters to own the moment. This particular riff on Dorham is worth the price of the disc alone.

The Caswell Sisters take numerous twists and turns on their harmonic journey but never push the listener over that imaginary harmonic cliff. Self indulgence and pretentiousness could kill a release such as this as fast as bad material or a band that is passing is an after thought. All the stars were in perfect alignment and this is another release that is about as close to perfect as one can find.

4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Tracks: Song Of Life; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Stroll; Poinciana; Lucky To Be Me; I Sing For You; Bye Bye Blackbird; A Wish; Sweet Adelphi; Sweet Lorraine; Asiatic Raes.

Personnel: Rachel Caswell: vocals; Sara Caswell: violin; Fred Hersch: piano; Jeremy Allen: bass; Bryson Kern: drums.