Thursday, January 7, 2021

Amber Weekes: “My Romance – A Special Valentine” (2021) CD Single Review

Well, though we are now a week into 2021, it is terribly clear we are still in the horrible grip of 2020, a year so foul and disgusting that it eclipsed the completely awful year of 2016. Most of us are exhausted by everything that has transpired over the last four years, and can hardly process this new scene. It is hitting me like the death of someone I care about. The Republican Party has essentially killed democracy, killed the country. What do we do? Do we mourn? Do we arm ourselves and prepare to physically battle Trump’s cult of racist imbeciles? For now, I am turning to some good music just to help calm me down, to help remind me that there are good people still out there, that humanity and compassion and love still exist. Recently, jazz vocalist Amber Weekes released a holiday album, The Gathering, an album of warmth and joy, one that helped us celebrate and feel connected even though we were unable to visit our families for Christmas. Now she is releasing a single to help us enjoy the next big holiday, Valentine’s Day.

“My Romance” is a gorgeous song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1935 musical Jumbo. In the film version of that musical, the song was performed by Doris Day. A lot of other artists have covered it over the years, which is understandable, for it gives vocalists a chance to reveal their romantic and passionate sides, to really dive into that aspect of themselves. And who wouldn’t wish to do that, particularly now, when it would be such a wonderful escape. Amber Weekes’ version provides that escape for all of us. The way she delivers those opening lines, taking her time, gently pulls us in, and before the third line, we are completely immersed in the romantic, dreamlike setting she and the musicians have created. Eddy Olivieri is on piano, and the string part was arranged and conducted by Mark Cargill. By the way, Amber Weekes included a somewhat different rendition of this song on The Gathering, that version having a little nod to “Jingle Bells” at the beginning. I prefer this version without the “Jingle Bells” reference.

“My Romance” is followed by “The Way He Makes Me Feel,” a song written by Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman for the 1983 film Yentl, where it is performed by Barbra Streisand. Amber Weekes presents this song as a duet with Mon David, and it too has something of a magical quality. The two vocalists are supported by Ramon Stagnaro on guitar, Paul Baker on harp, Jeff Littleton on bass, Tony Campodonico on piano, Nathaniel Scott on drums, David Jackson on percussion, and Munyungo Jackson on percussion, with strings arranged and conducted by Mark Cargill. Making the song a duet gives it a different feel, creating a strong sense of relationship, highlighting the romance. The two vocalists even share lines, with one beginning a line and the other finishing it. For example, on the song’s first line, “There’s no chill, and yet I shiver,” Amber Weekes sings “There’s no chill” and Mon David sings “and yet I shiver.” And they deliver the last line to each other, changing the word “he” to “you,” as if they have finally come together.

CD Track List

  1. My Romance
  2. The Way He Makes Me Feel

My Romance – A Special Valentine is scheduled to be released on February 14, 2021.

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