Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jacqueline Tabor's The Lady in the Gown

Whenever it's time to review yet another female jazz singer who's covering the Great American Songbook, I feel some trepidation. I'm not going to continue to complain about the female voice recordings anymore, especially since I've heard so many stellar singers over the last few months--Lyn Stanley, Noa Fort, Rondi Marsh, Lynn Veronneau and a few others. But more often than not I find there's a flicker of something I don't like in the voice, an affectation that seems less than genuine, anything that makes me put on my Terry Fletcher mask and say "Not my singer." Am I that picky? No, not really, but I really want someone to check all the little boxes. I want a beautiful voice, yes, but one that still sounds like no one else. I want a voice that has lived the voice of jazz, that reflects the entire spectrum of the life of a jazz singer. I want a great band to back that voice, and I want excellent sound quality. I want to feel like the singer is in the room with me. Everyone wants that last one, I think.

I didn't know that Jacquelin Tabor's new album The Lady in the Gown was going to tick all those boxes. I tried to avoid judging the album by its cover--photo of a beautiful lady, title of the album, very little in the way of graphic design, kind of no-frills. Looking further, I saw that this is another GAS album full of songs like "On Green Dolphin Street," "Autumn Leaves," "Misty" and "Caravan." I settled in for what I thought was going to be a predictably pleasant journey and was immediately struck by several things at once:

1) Tabor's voice is perfect to me. It's husky and slightly weary and yet almost unlimited in range. She hits all the right notes.

2) The band, a simple trio of Cole Schuster's guitar, Greg Feingold's bass and Max Holmberg's drums, sounds like every great jazz guitar trio you've heard from the '50s and '60s. These three sound like the same three guys who backed Dean Martin on Dream with Dean.

3) What great sound quality! Tabor is so present and upfront, you can almost feel the air from the sweep of that gown when she turns to watch the musicians.

So the project is rather simple in its conception--a great singer backed by a swinging trio, recorded impeccably. But it seems to transcend those modest goals by the sheer perfection of the execution. I know this is a fairly personal thing, but there's something about Tabor's voice that is so exquisitely rendered and so subjectively flawless. I don't think she sings one single note that isn't the right note, with the perfect amount of sustained vibrato. Yet there's nothing about her voice that isn't deeply human and touched by the emotions contained in the lyrics.

I've have to be honest here. I've never heard of Jacqueline Tabor before playing this CD for the first time. I listen to a lot of these CDs, from male and female singers trying to present their individual takes on the jazz we all know and love, and it's been a while since I've heard someone handle the challenge with such purity and confidence. It's easy to get lost in a sea of a singers who all have the chops to make it big. Here's hoping Jacqueline Tabor does exactly that. Highly recommended.

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