Monday, June 14, 2010

Stacey Kent: Reconte-Moi

Stacey Kent (vocals)
Reconte-Moi (Blue Note)

Stacey Kent is one of my favourite jazz vocalists alive today. I put her right up there with Claire Martin and Karrin Alyson. They all have roughly about the same amount of material available. But each has stake a different path. Martin tends to experiment with various composers--treating them with her own brand of arrangements. Alyson tends to explore genres all with a very unique and delicate touch of jazz. Kent has always stayed with the Great American Songbook as well as developing her material.

On her previous effort and debut for Blue Note Records, Breakfast on the Morning Tram (Blue Note; 2007), she broke up from her "standards" moniker and place some heavy attention on her own material as well bows to Latin and french composers (specifically Serge Gainsbourg). Breakfast on the Morning Tram was a nice departure and a new beginning for a vocalists I think deserves a lot more recognition.

The addition of Gainsbourg tracks on "Breakfast..." was definitely adventurous. I have heard Stacey perform French live and I was always taken a back but then realized, "hey this actually isn't all that bad" and "great for her for trying something a little different". So flash forward a few years and what do we have in a stereo today--Stacey Kent Reconte Moi (Blue Note), an album of all French material. And guess what. It is absolutely delightful!

Reconte-Moi isn't Stacey Kent turned Astrud Gilberto but she has carved a nice mark in the pavement to state her case. As always the music is beautiful and tightly orchestrated by her husband and saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson. But the work by Graham Harvey (piano) and John Parricelli (guitar) carry Reconte-Moi to a different level than on previous Kent albums. Stacey Kent and her band have stepped up tot the challenge and created a rich, lush, emotional record that brims with love on a summer day. Kent has chosen not to do the standard French covers here either--making Reconte--Moi even more exciting. She has included a couple of Benjamin Biolay numbers in addition to a lovely version of "Les Vacances au bord de la mer" by Michel Jonsaz and Pierre Grosz. Other standout for me are the title track where Parricelli is truly sublime, "Au Coin du monde." "Jardin d'hiver" and "Mi Amor".

Reconte-Moi for me is a near perfect record. It's definitely one of the best Stacey Kent records in years. You don't have to understand French to enjoy this album. Kent's interpretations are all you really need. The knowledge will help but music is about emotion and the moment. So enjoy this moment and the emotion will endure for a long time. Reconte-Moi is brilliant.

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