Written by General Jabbo
The Great American Songbook has a unique way of transcending generations. By rights, it should have been a forgotten form of music by now, a relic of days long past. After all, many of its songs were written between World War I and World War II, preceding the rock and roll era by some time. Yet here it is, all these years later, proving that a good song truly is timeless.
Legendary pianist, Dick Hyman, is 85 years old and would have been raised on these classic songs, yet the singer on the fine new duets album he is a part of, Lock My Heart, is a mere 30 years old—two generations younger than Hyman. Her name is Heather Masse and she first became familiar with Hyman’s work at an age not usually associated with standards—12. Masse’s mother played piano herself and had one of Hyman’s books. Soon Masse found herself singing and playing these songs herself. After studying jazz in college and having some chart success with her folk band, The Wailin’ Jennys, Masse found herself paired with Hyman on A Prairie Home Companion. The fit was a natural one, and a year later, the pair recorded Lock My Heart, a collection of standards with some Masse originals.
The CD opens with Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered.” Masse offers a delicate vocal over a pretty piano backdrop from Hyman. “Lullaby Of Birdland” has Hyman showing off his considerable piano chops in the song’s intricate intro while Masse proves herself adept at singing jazzier material.
The pair gives a bluesy reading of Gershwin’s “Love Is Here To Stay.” Hyman’s playful accompaniment provides the perfect complement to Masse’s breathy vocals. A poignant “September Song,” one of two Kurt Weill songs on the album, showcases a longing vocal from Masse.
It’s a testament to Masse’s songwriting that her two originals don’t seem out of place amidst an album of standards. “If I Called You” is a pretty song filled with optimism and a strong vocal from Masse while “Morning Drinker” is an exercise in the blues with Hyman effortlessly following Masse’s vocal lead.
From the album’s opening notes, it’s clear Masse and Hyman are a musical match. Masse’s strong vocals seem to push Hyman’s playing while he has the same effect on her. This makes for an exciting collaboration and is why Lock My Heart is a worthwhile pairing.