all the lonely people

Donna Byrne
Ol' Socks 01988

December 2005
Alan Bargebuhr


"All the Lonely People finds Donna Byrne picking up where she left off when we last marked her vocal passage (3/03, p.42), backed by the same rhythm team, with Harry Allen in for his colleague, Scott Hamilton, and two guitarists sharing the spot previously occupied by pere Pizzarelli. The program is varied, sprinkled with surprises and choices whose felicity becomes apparent as soon you hear Ms. Byrne’s way with them.

Her voice continues to have a dusky transparency with a slightly raspy texture which she brings to the fore as she feels the need, as well as a fluidity that implies she does not necessarily have to think through every phrase. The stream of her singing seems to owe as much to some degree of innate impulsion as to strategizing. This is not to say she doesn’t plan her CDs, with regard to repertoire and personnel, but that once the music starts, she both captures and is captured by a kind of centripetal flow that overrides thought and centers her performance. She makes it sound so damn natural and spontaneous, one is left with the impression that these particular songs were meant to be sung exactly the way she sings them.

Some specifics? She opens with an up tempo romp through “Speak,” with Harry Allen’s tenor clearing the way. She dares encroach on sacred Sinatra sod with a meticulously constructed “Lonely,” featuring, midway, a breathy Harry Allen psalmic statement, after which she caps the track with an absolutely heart wrenching denouement. Jesus H. Sinatra!! The Blues rears its wanton head in the “Evenin’” with some lovely Allen tenor, some well chosen bass notes from Wood and a swaggering finish from Ms. Byrne. “Unhappy Boy,” perhaps last recorded by Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley in 1961 (6/93, p.30), is revived and celebrated with delicious solo trades by Allen and both guitarists who find themselves together only on this track. Donna makes great good sense of Jon Hendricks’ lyric to Monk’s “Ask,” supported only by Tim Ray’s implicitly dissonant piano. She dips into the Nat Cole songbook for “Lookin’” with Tim Ray’s gritty piano solo work framing her Blues-tinged vocal.

This is the lady’s second recording of “Dreamed,” the first (5/98, p.105) on which she was accompanied by a lone Dave McKenna, whereas on this more recent version, by full trio plus the whisper of Harry Allen’s tenor. She invests her first chorus with a subtle, almost unendurable, tension, which she releases during an all but ecstatic closing chorus. Then, there is a rousingly up tempo“Caravan” fueled by Jim Gwin’s churning drums and strong solos from Tim Ray and Harry Allen. And I must not fail to mention Ms. Byrne’s small stroke of genius when she opens “Rigby” with the lines “All the lonely people/where do they all come from,” framing the issue properly, for a change. It’s about loneliness, not about someone named Eleanor. This is simply another superlative recording from one of our most accomplished and creative Jazz/Cabaret singers."

Alan Bargebuhr