Tuesday, January 12, 2016

USA: Lyn Stanley "Interludes" CD Release Party Friday, January 15th @ The Cicada Club

For Interludes, the third album by the extraordinary vocalist Lyn Stanley, the subject matter is one that has fascinated songwriters from the first time that words were ever put to music –  as she explains it “… capturing the nuances of the sublimely complicated subject known as Love.” The wisdom and masterful artistry with which she sings about it shines through with every sound she offers on this enchanting album.

Her resonant, sultry and deeply emotive voice is the perfect instrument to properly portray this ageless theme in all its beauty, depth and nuance – from playful and haughty to tender and vulnerable, but always deeply sensuous, elegant, romantic and at times unabashedly sexy. It would be easy for Lyn to rely entirely upon her beautiful voice, and to deliver these stunning interpretations of wonderful songs with her perfect intonation and impeccable phrasing. But as a true musician she is focused fully upon creating a musical experience at its finest level in every sense.

As always, Lyn has assembled a stellar cast of associates across the board. Superb musicians, remarkable arrangers and brilliant technical personnel have all come together to create an album that is not simply a collection of great songs, as Interludes is actually an anthology of love stories that play out like a cinematic experience.

From her very first album – the highly acclaimed Lost in Romance – Lyn has always taken the greatest care to record, master and issue her albums with total attention to technical details and quality. That is certainly the case with Interludes, from her use of Frank Sinatra’s personal Neumann U47 tube microphone (kept in a private box marked “Frank” in a vault at Capitol Studios) to collaborating again with legendary engineer Al Schmitt – who recorded 10 and mixed all 14 tracks – and as always, the equally legendary mastering wizard, Bernie Grundman.  For the first time, Lyn has expanded her own role behind the scenes as well, serving as lead producer.
But technical quality only goes so far in making great music. The marvelous arrangements by Tamir Hendelman, Steve Rawlins, Bill Cunliffe and John Chiodini – with Lyn co-arranging two of the songs – provide the ideal vehicles for Lyn and her exceptional musicians to tell the stories. Pianist Cunliffe is here on nine tracks, spelled by Mike Garson on four others; and Chiodini performs on the entire album, with bassist Chuck Berghofer on all but one piece. Paul Kreibich and Ray Brinker share the drum duties. Special guest artists are brought into the mix on various tracks with clear purpose and vision. These include trombonist Bob McChesney, cellist Cecilia Tsan, percussionist Brad Dutz and the peerless harmonica master Hendrik Meurkens. While this is clearly Lyn Stanley’s album, the contributions by the musicians are exemplary – sensitive, impeccable in artistry and fully focused on the tales being told.
As anyone familiar with Lyn’s work knows from Lost in Romance and its follow-up Potions, her paean to the music of the 1950s, her selection of repertoire is always imaginative and captivating.  With the central theme of love, the options are certainly plentiful and Lyn has chosen wisely from the Great American Songbook, jazz classics, and modern popular songs.

The album opens on a daring note with Lyn’s a capella intro and rubato exposition of the Gershwins’ How Long Has This Been Going On? with a smooth trombone obbligato enhancing Lyn’s seductive and sensual vocal.  Seductiveness is also the angle on Artie Butler & Sammy Cahn’s It’s Crazy with Lyn’s warmed-up honey vocal in a sinuously languorous mode. Meurkens’ delightful solo aptly demonstrates why he stands at the apex of today’s harmonica hierarchy.

Two iconic jazz classics also feature Meurkens, showing both the versatility and depth contained in both his instrument and his artistry.  Duke Ellington’s gorgeous In a Sentimental Mood (lyrics by Manny Kurtz) is exquisitely interpreted by Lyn, and performed in Duke’s original key, a rarity for a singer. Her winsome vocal is caressed by Tsan’s cello, and Meurkens’ solo captures the feathery touch and lyrical sensitivity of Johnny Hodges. On Billie Holiday’s classic Don’t Explain, Lyn’s heart-wrenching and beautifully suspended take on Arthur Herzog Jr.’s lyrics is sensitively enhanced by Hendrik’s rich obbligato, evoking the loving trumpet touches that Buck Clayton and Sweets Edison brought to so much of Billie’s music.

Cellist Tsan joins with Meurkens on Lyn’s spectacular version of Dubin & Warren’s 1932 jewel, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. A perfect example of Parisian torch songs of the era, Lyn sumptuously offers it as a dramatic and cinematic tango with bolero spicing. Tsan appears again on More Than You Know (Youmans, Rose & Eliscu) an easy swinger with a George Shearing flavor highlighted by a delightfully infectious cello, trombone and scat vocal unison segment.

McChesney’s trombone contributes nicely to the bouncy jazz feel on Cole Porter’s Just One of Those Things. A vibrant interpretation built on shifting tempos, it’s launched with a decidedly hipster ‘50s feel courtesy of Dutz’s bongos. That ‘50s vibe is on tap again on Ward & Tyson’s Black Velvet introduced with Lyn’s co-arranger Steve Rawlins’ finger snaps in tribute to one of Lyn’s idols Peggy Lee. That homage is furthered by Lyn’s sexy, evocative blues drawl and the terrific contributions of Chiodini, who was Peggy’s guitarist for many years.

Blues again makes an unexpected appearance on a most unique interpretation of the Led Zeppelin mega-hit Whole Lotta Love. Deeply soulful and built on a deliciously suspended bass vamp with sparkling guitar spicing, the late-night, smoky jazz feel is sensational. One of the highest compliments to a singer is to say that she makes every song her own. Lyn’s transformation of this staple of the hard rock lexicon displays her ownership of that quality with crystal clarity.

Lyn’s splendid balladry is again on tap for Gato Barbieri & Dory Previn’s Last Tango in Paris with her elegantly filigreed vocal floating on cascading piano, shimmering guitar, probing bass and swirling cymbals. The Island (Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s translation from the Portuguese of Ivan Lins & Vitor Martins Brazilian classic) receives a lovely heartfelt rendition buoyed by a deeply wooded bass.
A more driving texture comes via Nice ‘n Easy (the Bergmans again, with Lew Spence), a sprightly jaunt in easy swing, with the band stretching out a bit and Garson in two-fisted Red Garland mode. Lyn scolds playfully on I Was a Little Too Lonely (Evans and Livingston) with a straightforward swing jazz core.

The closing piece is a hauntingly beauteous pas de deux with guitarist Chiodini on Sinatra’s heartbreaking portrait of unrequited love, I’m a Fool to Want You, a most poignant and compelling way to end this luminous album.
Interludes is available in CD, SACD and 2-disc 45rpm vinyl.

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