Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Two from Laura Ainsworth...on LP and CD!

Audiophiles love the female voice. So much so, in fact, that my review pile is currently flooded with jazz releases from women singers. I'm not about to say this is a new thing, especially since I've been gorging myself on a steady diet of Ella, Judy and Billie for the last couple of years. But I'm meeting quite a few chanteuses over the last year--talented singers who have clearly been around for a while, even though I've never heard of them until now.

I just received a double shot of Laura Ainsworth in the mail--both an LP and a CD. What's unusual is that it isn't the same release--Top Shelf is on LP, and New Vintage is on CD. Both were released within a few days of each other last August. Why the distinction? Well, Top Shelf is sort of a greatest hits album for Ainsworth, who hails from Dallas. It's aimed squarely at audiophiles or, more accurately, the trade show circuit where audiophiles wander from room to room and ask to hear Diana Krall, Norah Jones and Jennifer Warnes. New Vintage is merely her latest release.

Ainsworth has a playful, almost cheery delivery. You can almost see her smile as she sings. While the cover of Top Shelf is clearly a tribute to those wonderful old Julie London albums I love, I wouldn't call Ainsworth's voice sultry. It's enthusiastic, vivid and quick. She also gravitates toward lyrics that are meant to evoke knowing smiles and soft chuckles rather than longing and heartbreak. Both of these albums are fun and uplifting, which is not quite in the spirit of the traditional torch song. This isn't the blues. This is a celebration.

Ainsworth employs the same band for both albums--pianist Brian Piper, bassist John Adams, drummers Mike Drake and Steve Barnes, woodwind player Chris McGuire, trumpeter Rodney Booth, flutist Pete Brewer and vibraphone player Dana Sudborough--and they are a tight and skilled ensemble across the board. But I favor Top Shelf over New Vintage for a number of reasons. The sound quality on the latter is smoother and richer and adds a layer of seriousness that counters the liveliness of Ainsworth's voice. While "New Vintage" is cheerful and exciting, the LP is the one I'd bring to a trade show and show off to the attendees. It's more "classic" in its approach, which is what I want from my female voice audiophile recordings.

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