Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Diane Marino's Soul Serenade--The Gloria Lynne Project

Jazz vocalist Diane Marino starts off her new album, Soul Serenade, with a sound that's a tad too sweet and a tad too MOR. Billy May and Milton Raskin's "Somewhere in the Night" brushes up against "Autumn in New York" a few times, and I immediately started feeling a sense of trepidation, that this was another jazz singer who was going to vex me. It's a good thing I hung in there--Marino's album picks up from that first song and blazes through a set that's not quite a tribute to legendary singer Gloria Lynne but a fond acknowledgement that Marino and Lynne often gravitated toward the same songs.

Marino's voice is a sweet thing. It's sultry without the weariness, innocent for jazz but pure enough in its enthusiasm to make you forget about life on the wrong side of the tracks. This goes against my Swagger Rule a bit, but the truth is that Marino's back-up band acts as a serious counterpoint to that classic purity in her voice. The combination of her and her band--which includes keyboardist Brad Cole, drummer Chris Brown, bassist Frank Marino and guitarist Mark Christian and many guests--has a thrilling energy to it that absolutely works, especially as the album moves on through these standards. Yes, Soul Serenade keeps getting better as it goes.

Those guests provide more than a few sparks along the way, especially guitarist Doug Munro--his The Harry Warren Songbook which I reviewed for Positive Feedback Online was a major reason I started listening to "hot Parisian jazz" again. He adds that same light magic to a couple of tracks here.

The musicians are downright flawless here, and settle in instinctively and provide a new energy from scratch on each track. But it's Marino's voice that slowly won me over. Usually she accompanies herself on piano on her releases, but she relegated that to her close friend Cole so that she could really focus on her vocal style. She's not channeling Gloria Lynne as much as pointing out why these standards are special and were chosen by both singers. "The songs Gloria Lynne recorded during her career stand alone in their originality and uniqueness," Marino writes. As a result, we get sort of a "deep tracks" version of the Great American Songbook with lesser known but compelling interpretations of Arlen & Mercer's "Out of This World," Harry Warren's "Serenade in Blue" and Irving Berlin's "Let's Take an Old-Fashioned Walk." Marino is focused, and she brings out the meaning of each song as few singers do.

Settle in with this one, and let it wash over you. Its treasures are revealed slowly, over time. Perhaps you can follow Soul Serenade with a few Gloria Lynne tracks and learn even more about the music Marino is celebrating.

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