Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rachel Caswell: “We’re All In The Dance” (2018) CD Review

When it seems that more things these days divide us than unite us, and people drive us quickly to anger, it’s beneficial to take a step back and force ourselves to remember what we have in common. It’s difficult, to be sure, but necessary for our health and survival. An album title like We’re All In The Dance provides a good reminder. Jazz vocalist Rachel Caswell’s new album seems designed to soothe us, to heal us, to lift our spirits, and to remind us that (with possibly a few exceptions) we are all capable of love. Joining her on this release are Dave Stryker on guitar (he also produced the album), Fabian Almazan on keys, Linda May Han Oh on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Violinist Sara Caswell joins her on a few tracks.

Rachel Caswell chooses a Sting composition titled “Fragile” to open the new album. A lot of Sting’s material is perfect for this kind of approach, for there is a strong jazz element to some of his music. Rachel Caswell delivers a really nice rendition, reminding us “That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could/For all those born beneath an angry star/Lest we forget how fragile we are.” Indeed. This track features some nice work on drums. And I love the addition of violin, which acts as a second glorious voice. Rachel even includes a bit of scat partway through. “Fragile” is a song that was also recently covered by Carol Saboya. That’s followed by “A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening,” written by Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh. This rendition has a cool vibe, in large part because of that excellent work on bass. This song is sweet and romantic. “I want to save all my nights and spend them all with you.” Oh, I know the feeling. Sometimes words don’t quite capture the joy we’re feeling, and so Rachel Caswell turns to some fun scat. Seriously, that section had me smiling, even laughing. Wonderful stuff.

“We’re All In The Dance,” the album’s title track, is a sweet, gentle, thoughtful and uplifting rendition of the song from the film Paris, Je T’aime. Rachel Caswell sings it in English. “People are moving together/Close as the flames in a fire/Feel the beat, music and rhyme/While there is time.” I love Sara Caswell’s work on violin. The version of “Drown In My Own Tears” on this CD has a cool sound right from the start, with that delicious work on guitar. Then Rachel Caswell’s vocals come in – so smooth, yet so passionate. I love the way she holds onto certain words. This is my favorite vocal performance on the album. It’s a tremendous performance, and Dave Stryker’s work on guitar matches it.  There is more great work on guitar in Rachel Caswell’s rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me A Bedtime Story.” This version includes the lyrics by Tom Lellis, but it is that instrumental section that really shines on this track. There are no lyrics to Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity,” so Rachel begins her version with some scat, vocally performing the saxophone part. This track features a nice lead on bass, as well as some cool work on keys and a drum solo. Yes, there is plenty here to keep me interested. The CD then concludes with “Reflections (Looking Back),” which begins gently on piano. This is a beautiful, late-night, thoughtful tune to conclude the album. “In looking back, we just peek through the cracks/Between what’s real and false/In this eternal waltz/Meanwhile, we just keep dancing.” Keep dancing, everyone.

CD Track List
  1. Fragile
  2. A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
  3. We’re All In The Dance
  4. Devil May Care
  5. Two For The Road
  6. Drown In My Own Tears
  7. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
  8. Tell Me A Bedtime Story
  9. Dexterity
  10. Reflections (Looking Back)
We’re All In The Dance is scheduled to be released on CD on September 7, 2018.

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