Reviews


LICENSED TO THRILl

Donna Byrne
LICENSED TO THRILL
Challenge AL73230

 

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Jazz Journal International
2003
Bruce Crowther

LICENSED TO THRILL

This very good singer came into the business almost by accident; something for which we should be grateful. Byrne is yet another fine singer to come my way recently who is a relative latecomer inasmuch as she is no longer a twenty-or thirty-something wannabe; and how refreshing it is to hear a mature voice and seasoned style. She has a firm but gentle voice with a very pleasing touch of huskiness.

Byrne explores the meanings of the lyrics that she sings with unerring perception, something that is especially appropriate on a selection of songs that explore many different aspects of life, its ups and downs, through which Byrne has herself travelled. She brings a late-night intimacy to love songs such as My Old Flame and Shadowland, and is deeply moving on the paired songs with which she ends the set. To the mid- and up-tempo pieces, among them Talk To Me Baby and the opener, she imparts a lithe swing and her natural joyousness is very appealing.

The supporting musicians are all in fine form with the core trio providing superior support and there are nice solo moments from pianist and bass player (the latter being Byrne's husband), and the drummer, on a seriously swinging I'll Always Be In Love With You. Of the two guests I need say no more than that Hamilton and Pizzarelli are at their customary best. There is a long, absorbing and very good note by Richard M. Sudhalter, which details the ups and downs of Byrne's life and career. Add in exemplary sound and all that I can add is that this CD is very warmly recommended. 

From Bruce Crowther's Web Site:
A highly talented singer, mature and unforced, Donna Byrne sings with the liquid grace of a horn player. Her interpretation of lyrics shows a profound understanding of their emotional depths. Joined here by the excellent rhythm section of Tim Ray (p), Marshall Wood (b), Jim Gwin (d), Bucky Pizzarelli (g), along with tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, Donna delivers a fine set of mainly standards. This is a thoroughly engaging CD by a singer of considerable merit and who deserves the wider attention she is now beginning to receive. - Bruce Crowther


Planet Jazz
The International Jazz Review
George Evans

LICENSED TO THRILL

After six prior releases on Arbors and other independent labels, Donna Byrne springs into view with this European, A-Records release. A mature vocalist of considerable depth and artistry, Donna Byrne has, in spades, the sort of burnished vocal sound that modern, white girl-singers often try to emulate, but rarely achieve. This musical advanced standing extends to Byrne's savvy choice of repertoire, and employment of soloists such as Bucky Pizzarelli and Scott Hamilton, whose sympathetic presence here evokes Rosie Clooney's better Concord discs. A swinger of some considerable passion, bearing long lines, and a full dynamic range, Donna Byrne rarely over-embellishes a phrase, knowing precisely when to put out, but more importantly, when to hold back. These welcome qualities are nicely offset by her intelligent, heartfelt way with a lyric, and a sense of emotional clarity, which acts as an impetus to the music at hand. More than a mere clone of Rosie, Peggy or the Helens, Donna Byrne swings past any white-chick cliché's to project an exciting brand of sensuality and passion that is hers alone. The rhythm section here, including the insightful piano of Tim Ray, tastefully swinging bass of Marshall Wood, and in-the-pocket drums of Jim Gwin, offers unparalleled support to the proceedings on this noteworthy endeavor. With Licensed To Thrill, Donna Byrne has caught our attention, and for all intents and purposes, plans to keep it.


Cadence
May 2003
Alan Bargebuhr

LICENSED TO THRILL

So, this is yet another exceptional program by Ms. Byrne, as she continues to handle vocal technique with such seeming ease one is swept along, unaware of the "mechanics" of her art. Her voice is a pure stream of lyric poetry, free of affectation, direct and expressive, modulated and accelerated at will, as she takes obvious pleasure in making use of the raw song materials at hand. All one need hear is how she slows and then revs, on the You And The Night straight-aways, preparatory to racing around the turns, to know this is a canary who could feed an army, if she decided to sing for (her) supper. The repertoire is varied and never less than interesting, with Devil Moon, perhaps, the only chestnut close to being over-roasted. The ravishment she offers in Shadowland, a Dave McKenna tune blessed with Meredith D'Ambrosia lyrics, on which she's accompanied by only pianist Ray, is in and of itself worth the price of admission. Not to mention the bite of her sweet bitterness in interpreting Don't Care, a generally overlooked gem from the 1987 Broadway revival score of Cabaret. Yet another highlight is Talk, given a reading that leavens coyness with just the right amount of irony. The rhythm trio of Ray, Wood and Gwin, held over from previous recordings is -- once again-- tight and bright, and the addition of Pizzarelli "pere" adds further rhythmic impetus to the ensemble. Donna Byrne remains in the front rank of contemporary Jazz/cabaret song stylists. 


VJM's Jazz and Blues Mart
Winter 2002

LICENSED TO THRILL

On Licensed to Thrill, her sixth solo album, Donna Byrne is supported by an excellent rhythm section augmented on six of the thirteen titles by the ever-dependable tenor sax of Scott Hamilton and the ever-welcome work of veteran guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Good diction combined with sesitivity for lyrics and the ability to swing are the hallmarks of a superior artist and all these virtues are present here. Her work is is very much in the mainstream of jazz singing and vocal excesses are thankfully absent. An up-tempo You And The Night And The Music, in which the singer skillfully negotiates changes of tempo, and an exceptionally fine and swinging rendition of Old Devil Moon contast with a slow, studied, meaningful performance of My Old Flame on which Scott Hamilton plays a full chorus. Other highlights are a bouncy Nobody Else But Me with solos by Scott Hamilton and Bucky Pizzarelli; an emotive top drawer interpretation of I'll Always Be In Love With You, and a driving version of Fat's Domino's R&B classic I'm Walkin'


All Music Guide
Glenn Astarita
2003

LICENSED TO THRILL

Jazz vocalist Donna Byrne's animated manner of spinning a lyric is augmented by her warm intonations and acute sense of swing. Here, she garners terrific support from guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and saxophonist Scott Hamilton. The artists project a scenario that might be conducive to an upscale hotel lounge, as Byrne embraces a jazzy set consisting of familiar standards. She understates an abundance of themes while delving into these compositions with a cool, low-key demeanor amid a few dreamy swing vamps. The musicians whirl through a potpourri of ballads and upbeat numbers with a charismatic edge. On Shadowland, pianist Tim Ray sets the mood by counterbalancing Byrne's whispery verse via a series of introspective musings. Hence, Byrne receives sympathetic support from Pizzarelli, Hamilton, and her rhythm section of choice. The musicians transmit an overall vibe that offers a bit of respite from the daily drudgeries of life. Recommended.
AMG Rating: 4 stars


Jersey Jazz
Joe Lang
2003

LICENSED TO THRILL

Boston-based vocalist Donna Byrne has produced several fine albums over the past 15 or so years. She has consistently proven to be a singer with a strong jazz feeling, a voice that is on the husky side, but not heavily so, and a penchant for choosing superior songs. Her latest release, Licensed to Thrill (AL Records – 73230), ranks with her best. Her instrumental support is provided by Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Tim Ray on piano, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass and Jim Gwin on drums. While she is warmly comfortable with a ballad like My Old Flame, she chooses on this disc to emphasize her rhythmic side, whether it is gently present as on I Don't Care Much , or more emphatic on tracks like I'm Walkin' or Old Devil Moon. Listen to her take on Dave Frishberg's ode to perseverance, The Underdog, for proof that this lady cares about lyrics. Licensed to Thrill is an album that will serve as a fine introduction to those unfamiliar with Donna Byrne, and will be a welcome addition to the CD libraries of the many who are already her fans.