Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lisa Maxwell Return To Jazz Standards JL 2010

A fresh and inventive look at standards through a variety of genres with an artist that can sing the phone book!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
 
Proving that the pretty girl can in fact sing, Lisa Maxwell's 2010 release Return To Jazz Standards works on a variety of levels. To start, not all pretty girls can sing but we have already put that to bed so on to new business. A release of standards can be the equivalent of tap dancing in a lyrical minefield. Some vocalists keep the arrangements straight, subdued and essentially boring while preferring the play it safe approach with the end result being a release already forgotten before it ever starts. Some vocalists attempt arrangements that are wildly creative with mangled melodies asking them to write a check their artist talents can not begin to cash. Lisa Maxwell works a soft yet infectious voice with impeccable phrasing in perfect harmony with producer, arranger and pianist George Newall. One could almost consider this a strict duet release as George is certainly not a musical afterthought on this most entertaining of releases.
 
The back story here is as heartfelt as the music. In short, Lisa has survived "Bilateral Vocal Fold" paralysis" and the artistic community is better for it. While the standards here are familiar they walk an eclectic tightrope down a memory lane but without the dated baggage some vocalist seem intent on carrying. The Cole Porter classic "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" has an effervescent swing that goes straight to your soul while "Call Me" has a deceptively subtle bossa flavor that blows the dust off a roughly forty year old classic. "My Romance" further highlights the phrasing and slightly smoky intonation of the jazz version of the "little black dress" as this lyrical chameleon more than proves she could share a stage with anyone.
 
Normally releases of this nature leave me cold but it is all about the arrangements and execution. The X-Factor for Lisa Maxwell is that she does a riff on no one but herself. An independent artist more than worthy of a shot with any label. Nothing to grind on here.
 
Tracks: You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; Meditation; Lazy Afternoon; I Hadn't Anyone Till You; Love Dance; Call Me; The Shadow of Your Smile; Isn't It A Pity; What Are You Doing New Years Eve?; My Romance; Moonlight Savings Time.
 
Vocals: Lisa Maxwell
Piano, Producer, Arranger: George Newall
Trombone: John Allred on Moonlight Savings Time