Ol' Socks Records 3250
"When I go record buying, the very first thing I notice is the care taken by the artist in selecting varied and interesting material. Donna offers us here 13 worthwhile selections. Yesterdays (Harbach/Kern) features such sensational motion and movement that it will just pick you up and place you right where you want to be no matter where you are. I haven't heard such fresh singing since I first laid ears on the singing of Joannie Sommers. Her special trio lead by ace bass player Marshall Wood is certainly first class 'all the way'. Incidentally that's one of the songs by Van Heusen and Cahn that she sings to the hilt. Don't miss one of the abundant highlights which is the spectacular scat of Green Dolphin Street (Kaper/Washington). It's swiftness kicks her pure magic to and fro completely nonstop for all of its well spent 5 minutes plus. Verse intact, Rodgers and Hart's Lover waltzes along most excitingly and thoroughly on target. This very special vocalist has a great deal to offer. She makes the best of her shared time with us on this unique CD. As one of her big fans I can't wait for her next offering.
All Music Guide
For her latest album, Donna Byrne returns to her Ol' Socks label for which she made her first CD in 1990. Over the ensuing eight years, the voice, while a little huskier, has lost not an iota of its attractiveness; neither has Byrne mislaid any ability to deliver a varied and interesting agenda of tunes in a most entertaining way. Swing is the tempo of choice for the first two numbers The More I See You and Somewhere in the Hills. While there's a bit of a bossa nova beat present in the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Ray Gilbert not-too- oft-recorded "Hills," swing is the dominant tempo of the record. Stevie Wonder's If It's Magic gets an unusually plaintive reading from Byrne, accompanied by Tim Ray's piano, which is in synch with the tune's mood. Byrne introduces Green Dolphin Street and breathes new life into it with a verse sung a cappella and a masterfully delivered scatting chorus. Her interpretation ranks with Ella Fitzgerald's and Sheila Jordan's readings of this classic standard. There are many other goodies on the CD. Don't Take Your Love From Me, starts out with a Latin beat and segues into a bluesy tempo featuring fine bass work by Byrne's husband Marshall Wood. Down With Love is done with a slightly Peggy Lee sardonic touch through which Byrne opines that this "pain" called love, as well as anything and anyone associated with it, should be put away for good. Again Wood does yeoman work on the bass. The album ends with a romping version of Just Friends, where Byrne delivers the lyrics at a breakneck pace. At no time, however, does she lose the beat or her pitch; nor in any way does she slur the words as so often happens when a song is delivered at this pace. Tim Ray and Jim Gwin stretch out splendidly on this tune. Her fifth album validates Donna Byrne as one of the most accomplished and entertaining jazz vocalists on the scene today, deserving far greater recognition than she has been afforded to date.
Here are some husbands and wives making music together. At the risk of being repetitive, I will underscore what I have said before (10/97, p. 92) by suggesting that (1) Donna Byrne, while still plowing primarily on the Christy/Connor/O'Day collective, is actually a technically superior vocal craftsperson to two of those fabled three and every bit the equal of the third. She is one of those few vocalists who apparently does not suffer fools or extraneous accompaniment easily, so once again we find her in a no-nonsense, tightly-knit, straight-to-the-finish-line set of mostly standards which she dispatches with her usual show-me-a-rose-or-leave-me-alone disposition. She must be wondering, by now, what she has to do to come to the attention of as many listeners as some of her contemporaries (i.e. - Diana Krall) and all I can say is: "Peoples! Heads up! Pay Attention! This is one fine Jazz Vocalist!!"
From her rapturous readings of "September Song" and "All the Way" to the lighter than air effect she achieves by alternately floating over the rhythm section or jumping in (Lover/Friends) fully engaged, she covers the vocal bases with stylish authority. And one must not overlook the rarely sung verse to "Lover" which makes Byrne's reading as definitive as it needs to be. No small portion of credit goes to the rhythm team which cooks exceedingly. Tim Ray has a refreshingly clean linear pulse to his lines. Jim Gwin crackles with cool heat. Marshall Wood is clearly her bass player of choice: he has played on all her previous CDs and has been deeply involved in the productions thereof. It turns out he's her husband, but I like to think she'd dump him if he didn't handle his bass as well as he does.
Donna Byrne is one of those singers who's at home with virtually any style, while staying loyal to the superior standards. She applies her long experience to her well-developed vocal equipment and comes up with always-interesting interpretations. This collection is particularly adventurous, ranging from ballads to Broadway musicals to Brazil to Stevie Wonder to Eddie Arnold to Tin Pan Alley to jazz standards.
The More I See You gets the supercharged treatment, which is followed up with and infectious Antonio Carlos Jobim piece. Wedged between that pair and a lively reworking of Green Dolphin Street is her extraordinary delivery of the Kurt Weill - Maxwell Anderson classic, September Song. She begins by singing the exceptionally long verse a cappella, delivered perfectly, and then continues with the quiet support of the trio as she sings the familiar chorus with penetrating feeling. This is easily the best performance of the song since Walter Huston's unique and touching interpretation in the original case of Knickerbocker Holiday -- 1938.
She divides her performances down the middle between singing for the sake of the song, stressing its meaning and melody, and using the song primarily to exercise her wide-ranging vocalizing abilities. This results in a virtuoso presentation that is simultaneously impressive and unsettling. Impressive wins.
Much credit for the success of the whole is shared by the supporting trio, which included Marshall Wood on bass, Jim Gwin on the drums, and Tim Ray at the piano. There's ample opportunity to hear them in instrumental stretches, as well as giving Donna a substantial foundation wherever she goes.
This is a disc where you can miss a lot if you don't listen attentively. And if ever it was true that a record is worth having for the sake of one track, this is the one. Life isn't complete without the Donna Byrne version of September Song.