Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stacey Kent: Dreamer In Concert

Stacey Kent (vocals)
Dreamer In Concert (Blue Note France; 2011)
Matt Skelton (drums)
Jim Tomlinson (sax)
Jeremy Brown (bass)
Graham Harvey  (piano)        

There are some artists where integrity and tradition are integral to their delivery and success. Stacey Kent has delivered integrity and a sweet panache for tradition for almost two decades now. She has maintained a huge following with a sweet mastery of the American Songbook but with her last record, Reconte Moi (Blue Note; 2010), she advanced and widened her net a bit among jazz fans. The addition of a number of interesting French standards may have been a big part of it too.

The album was obviously a big hit in France which is probably what prompted the concept of her first ever live album, Dreamer In Concert (Blue Note). I've always had a tough time describing Kent to friends. But the best description would be soft, calm and undeniably impressive. Like a young cool Astrid Gilberto and soft lion-like courage of Tony Bennett or think on the pop side, Carole King. And now in addition to dragging my friends to her shows every year I can now bombard them with a truly stunning document of what its like to sit in the audience and get lost in her voice and her band's unique strengths and unity.

"Postcards Lovers" a love song awash with memories and passion that is built on the poetry of Kazuo Ishiguro, but delivered by like a wise sage, Kent will have your heart melting. The upbeat tempo of "If I Were A Bell" would put any music fan on their knees in awe. Kent captivates here in way that Anita O'Day or Rosemary Clooney would. Hitting the forceful notes but always keeping a gentle handle on the proceeding so the listener remains focused on the lyrics and creates their own life-story.

The Latin rhythms of Jobim's "Dreamer" are accentuated by the her marvelous band, especially Harvey's enveloping fender rhodes. Tomlinson's romantic notes feel like something out the best periods of Stan Getz. Skelton and Brown adds lovely touches on percussion and bass the are integral to the movements. This is a group that has been together for awhile and you can hear it in every note. "Jardin D'Hiver" sees Kent absorbing herself fully into recent French popular music (the piece originally written by French musician, Benjamin Biolay). The chanteuse delivers a sultry and impassioned version adds a gentleness to the husky original. The two versions do stand apart and Kent has made this piece her own.

The best part about Dreamer In Concert is that fans who may not have seen (or may never get to see) the illustrious Stacey Kent, now have an opportunity to experience what I've been telling them for years. She is one of the few true female jazz vocalists on scene today. A warm, inviting tone that is captivating as well as invigorating. This is one of those few and perfect live albums that is a must own. Highly Recommended.

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