Monday, August 19, 2013

Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen In New York 2013

Contemporary standards and the Great American Songbook pulled off with flair and elegance!
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

I love New York...I can even find room in my heart for the New York Yankees. What takes almost no effort is to make room for a duo that can handle the Great American Songbook with just a splash of the more popular contemporary tunes in such an effortless fashion as Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen. The latest release, Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen in New York chronicles their exponential growth as an artistic pair never mind the fact they just happen to be husband and wife!

Comfort and connectivity are the driving forces when tackling a project including tunes such as "Like Someone In Love" and "Body and Soul." Far too many artists attempting to write checks their artistic sensibilities are incapable of cashing will bang out a set of standards, do a passable job and subsequently be forgotten about ten minutes after the recording or show is over. Lewis & Hagen linger with the warmth and comfort of that favorite sweater or comfortable pair of jeans.

 The standards covered here are slightly left of center, the duo went a bit deeper in the Great American Songbook than others often do and the results are magnificent. When the standard is slightly more familiar then they make it count. Understanding that there is a great deal of lyrical depth in the Great American Songbook other than Cole Porter works to their advantage well.  Highlights also include the Roberta  Flack popular smash, "Killing Me Softly" penned by the great Norman Gimble. The previously mentioned "Body and Soul" is a potential train wreck waiting to happen. This particular tune can turn karaoke in an instant or you can have a vocalist such as Lewis embrace this timeless classic and make it her own if just for a brief moment in time. What makes this duo work incredibly well is that pianist Gerard Hagen is far more than an afterthought accompanist but instead has the unique ability to move and shift the harmonic base of each tune to fit not only the mood but to create his own artistic stamp on this project.

Do Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen reinvent the musical wheel with these tunes? No, and again that may be the key to success. Some melodies and arrangements are simply to good to deconstruct as you will pail in comparison nine times out of ten. When you have the level of talent that is Leslie Lewis & Gerard Hagen the music can and will always speak for itself.

A wonderfully entertaining release.
Five_star_rating : Five stars ratings Stock Photo
Tracks: Like Someone In Love; Gentle Is My Love; Solitude; I Want To Be Happy; Killing Me Softly; You Must Believe In Spring; I'll Remember April; When I Fall In Love; Body And Soul.

Personnel: Leslie Lewis: Vocals; Gerard Hagen: Piano