The biography on singer Anne Walsh’s website highlights her vocal diversity. Not only is she an accomplished jazz vocalist, but she has also sung a little opera and a bit of show music. She has recorded sacred music and lullabies as well. Truly, where music is concerned, Anne Walsh is a renaissance woman. So it shouldn’t be unexpected that even when she puts out a new contemporary jazz album, it too reflects the variety of her musical tastes.
Go, her latest CD, is an eclectic mix of classic jazz pieces with some added original lyrics, a show tune or two, some other discoveries, a composition of her own, and a generous bit of Brazilian music. This last is perhaps owed to an early gig where she says she was introduced to the world of Jobim, Dori Caymmi, Basia, and Flora Purim. “The experience of singing Brazilian music gave my voice a freedom I had never known before,” she’s quoted as saying. Whatever the reason, the Brazilian touch anchors the album firmly in the vocalist’s wheelhouse.
“Cinnamon and Clove,” the Sergio Mendez favorite with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, opens the album with a stylish homage to Brazil 66 continued later with nod to their “Batucada.” Then there is an elegant scat interpretation of a bit of the Bacharach soundtrack to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which is called “South American Getaway.” Walsh merges her vocal instrument seamlessly with the rest of the band. It is a fine example of scat singing at its best. “Cascade of the Seven Waterfalls,” with lyrics by the singer, showcases her crystalline voice and features some sweet instrumental punctuation from the piano of her husband, Thomas Zink, as well as some nice solo work. “Melanie,” a song by Spanish composer Pablo Martin-Caminero discovered on LinkedIn, gives Walsh an opportunity to show some of her dramatic talents in a lush arrangement.
For real drama though, there’s her take on the Cole Porter classic, “So In Love.” She smolders with passion. Contrast this with the perky, almost girlish vocal on the original “Bumble Bee,” and it is clear that this is a singer who has learned the value of creating vocal character suited to her material. The kind of smoky, off-kilter blues of “Je Vousem Beaucoup,” with its strange, off-kilter title is another example. Here she portrays the sultry lounge singer against some nice accompaniment by saxophonist Gary Meek. Rogers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” gets a straightforward, laid-back performance that showcases the singer’s vocal purity.
“Go,” the Wayne Shorter instrumental which gives the album its title, featuring original lyrics by Joe DeRenzo, has the singer working closely with Meek to create what producer Zink calls a “conversation between Anne’s vocals and the solo instrument.” He says they were looking to avoid the “disconnect” that sometimes occurs between the voice and the other instruments, and in track after track they have got it right. Soloists and singer work together to create wholes that are even greater than the sums of their already fine parts. The final piece on the CD, Walsh’s “Spring’s Unfold,” is just one last example of this kind of beautiful synchronicity between singer and instrument.
Joining Zink and Meek in the ensemble are bassists Brian Bromberg and Jerry Watts, guitarist Larry Koonse and percussionists Chris Wabich and Tiki Pasillas. There are a number of other soloists who appear on individual tracks, and Walsh herself does background vocals along with Rogerio Jardim, Jonathan Mack and Jim Graft.
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