Nov 1, 2010
Female jazz singers seem to be divided into two worlds these days. There are those who follow the tradition of Ella, Sassy and Anita O’Day, and record standards or popular tunes with a classic jazz background. This would include Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, and Dianne Reeves. Thankfully we have legends like Dee Dee Bridgewater and Nancy Wilson recording them as well.
Then there are those who try to broaden the genre with covers of Baby Boomer favorites and present their music with less traditional jazz arrangements. These would include Cassandra Wilson, Lizz Wright, and Rene Marie. Karrin Allyson has a foot firmly in each camp.
Leslie Lewis, as can be gathered from the title of her new CD, Keeper of the Flame, stands firmly in the classics. Her latest release, recorded with the Gerard Hagen Trio, is heavy with selections from the Great American Songbook and the Great Brazilian Songbook (if there is such a thing) and shows her ready to follow in the classic singers’ footsteps.
Thanks to a guest appearance by flutist Gary Foster, the Brazilian numbers are the standouts on the CD. “Fotographia”, an Antonio Carlos Jobim classic, is given a lilting, swaying reading, Ms. Lewis’ voice soft as a breeze. Ivan Lins’ “The Island” features Hagen’s piano to great effect, with Ms. Lewis singing the yearning lyrics with feeling.
The CD wraps up with two classics – “Speak Low” and “Caravan” – which can stand with some of the fine interpretations of the past. The former song, one of my favorites, is taken at a slower tempo than expected, and Ms. Lewis’ vocals are an instrument to be reckoned with, curling seductively around the familiar lyrics. Foster’s saxophone solo brings it home, dancing over Jerry Kalaf’s subtle percussion.