Veteran cabaret jazz singer Jane Scheckter’s fourth album, Easy to Remember, offers a nice mix of classics and less well known songs from that proverbial Great American Songbook sung with the artistry of a real pro. The essence of a great jazz singer is the ability to take a song and make it your own—bend a note here, work out some innovative phrasing, and play with the tonality and the rhythm. Scheckter knows her business. Well known or obscure, she takes these songs and puts her stamp on them.
Take her version of the Rogers and Hart classic “Where or When.” First, she begins with the verse—a verse I doubt many have heard before, and when she gets to the heart of the tune she turns in a truly exciting reading of the familiar lyric. The addition of some nice work on the harmonica from Gil Chimes helps make this old favorite new again.
Her performances of other gems like Ray Noble’s “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You” and Rogers and Hart’s “Easy to Remember” are equally original. In the first, she opens singing with guitar all-star Bucky Pizzarelli, and then they are joined by a swinging ensemble including the coronet of Warren Vaché, the saxophone of Harry Allen, and the members of her trio: pianist Tedd Firth, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Peter Grant. She works with the ensemble on “Easy to Remember” too, and there is some sweet sax accompaniment from Allen. Again, these are really nice readings of old favorites.
The set opens with a stylish jazz take on Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing for You.” She brings it home with spirit. Her vocal on the beautiful “I’m Glad There is You” echoes with quiet sincerity. Other and perhaps less well known standards like “How Little We Know,” “I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before,” and “I Was a Little Too Lonely” give Scheckter the opportunity to showcase them for a wider audience. The same is true for even lesser known tunes like Harold Rome’s “Along With Me” and Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Accidents Will Happen.” What she does with them makes you wonder why they haven’t found a wider audience.
The one newer song on the album is John Proulx’s plaintive “Stuck in a Dream With Me.” There is also a bonus track of “Will You Still Be Mine” which features some clever modernized lyrics by Bob Feinberg; it’s the kind of thing that will play well at the Café Carlyle with topical references to everything from Justin Bieber to Fox News. It also has some nice fiddling from young violinist Aaron Weinstein.
A good album demands a smart repertoire, and Scheckter has made smart choices. As Joe Lang explains in the liner notes, she was “looking for songs that reflected mature viewpoints about the vagaries of love and romance.” Mature is the key word. These are not the songs of young lovers, these are the songs of people who have loved and lived to tell the tale. These are the people who are likely to remember these songs, and these are the people who are likely to appreciate what Jane Scheckter has done with them.