Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lyn Stanley: “The Moonlight Sessions Volume One” (2017) CD Review

Last year, talented jazz vocalist Lyn Stanley released two volumes titled The Moonlight Sessions, featuring her wonderful interpretations of familiar songs, including standards. I was first turned on to this artist a few years ago when she released Interludes. On that release, she mixed standards with some more surprising choices, such Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” On The Moonlight Sessions Volume One Lyn Stanley continues to offer surprises, though most of the song choices fit comfortably under the banner of standards. It is her voice and her style and her approach to the material that continue to surprise and delight me. Her voice sounds to me like something that comes alive at night, that thrives in those hours of excitement and mystery and promise.

She opens the album with “All Or Nothing At All,” a song made famous by Frank Sinatra. One of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded is Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” which is used so well in my favorite Woody Allen film, Manhattan. On this album, Lyn Stanley starts “All Or Nothing At All” with a taste of that tune, which is wonderful, and then the drums lead us into the song. Sometimes I want music to transport me away from the current state of things, more so now than in previous years. Who would have thought Donald Trump would last a full year? It’s depressing, and I look to music for escape. Lyn Stanley is able to open a door into a better time, a better world with this timeless and delightful music. And as on Interludes, she is backed by some incredible talent, and this track features some great work on horns and guitar. This track ends with a bit more of “Rhapsody In Blue.”

“All Or Nothing At All” is followed by “Willow Weep For Me,” which is sexy right from the start, with that horn, and with the way Lyn sings just the word “Willow.” Oh yes! I love her delivery. It’s enchanting and unusual and gorgeous. This track also features some delicious work on guitar. I can’t get enough of this one.  There have been a lot of good versions of this song over the years – by folks like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald – but this one is among the very best. You should definitely check it out. Lyn then delivers a gentle, romantic rendition of “Moonlight Serenade,” full of yearning and passion. I could be carried away on her voice to a place where love and romance reign – a land without school shootings; a land without lies; a land without heartless, two-dimensional, pointless characters like Donald Trump and Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos.

Then Lyn Stanley gives us an interesting take on “My Funny Valentine.” Something about it from the start makes me nervous; this track has an uneasy, haunted quality. Perhaps it’s that work on piano. As they get into the song, however, the tone changes, and I relax.  That piano solo halfway through the song is really something. This is a captivating rendition. Lynn takes an interesting approach to “Why Don’t You Do Right?” too, putting it in the same realm as Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” with the finger snaps and that cool vibe with the bass line.  It reminds me just a bit of the version that Jessica Rabbit sings in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This rendition is better, and I really dig that bass solo. That’s followed by a playful rendition of “Girl Talk,” a song written for the 1965 film Harlow. More good work on bass is prominent in Lyn’s wonderful version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.” Another highlight of this CD is “How Insensitive,” featuring Tamir Hendelman on piano. The album concludes with “In The Wee Small Hours Of Morning,” a perfect song to end a night spent listening to Lyn Stanley. This version features some good work on harmonica by Hendrik Meurkens.

CD Track List
  1. All Or Nothing At All
  2. Willow Weep For Me
  3. Moonlight Serenade
  4. My Funny Valentine
  5. Embraceable You
  6. Why Don’t You Do Right?
  7. Girl Talk
  8. Crazy
  9. Close Your Eyes
  10. How Insensitive
  11. Break It To Me Gently
  12. In The Wee Small Hours
The Moonlight Sessions Volume One was released on May 30, 2017.

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