Recorded with a veritable who’s who of Seattle-area jazz musicians, vocalist Lisa Fox makes her very capable debut with Watch What Happens. The album is comprised of a dozen tunes, mostly jazz standards. Fox’s crystalline voice shimmers above the uniformly strong instrumental backing. Her treatment of the melodies is delicate without sacrificing confidence. The arrangements are tight, with brief solos that support Fox’s vocals without drawing attention away.
The title track opens the album with great style, establishing a very relaxed mood. Darin Clendenin’s piano dominates instrumentally, carrying Fox’s vocal with sturdy comping. That gives way to the rich saxophone of Jay Thomas, which introduces an effortless take on “The Very Thought Of You.” Thomas’ sax drifts in and out of the tune, weaving perfectly with Fox. The tempo kicks up considerably with a jaunty run through Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic bossa nova “Agua De Beber.” The very dexterous fingers of Clipper Anderson work their way through an exceptional bass line that anchors the track.
The varied rhythmic textures of “Alone Together” provide a highlight of the album. Fox glides smoothly over the band, her falsetto clear as glass. Special note must be made of Mark Ivester’s percussion playing, which helps keep this particular performance unpredictable. The instrumental work throughout the entire album is very tasteful. They are truly providing support for the vocals, rather than indulging themselves. In addition to sax, Jay Thomas contributestrumpet and flugel horn on several tracks.
The only misfires come with the pop tunes that appear late in the album’s tracklist. These songs, Sting’s “Fields Of Gold” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” feel out of place among the Great American Songbook selections that otherwise dominate. While both are well sung and played, their middle of the road pop atmosphere detracts from the overall coherence of the album. Luckily these diversions do nothing to sink the consistent listenability of the work as a whole.
Lisa Fox shines especially on the ballads, most notably on “The Nearness Of You” and “You’ve Changed.” Her delicate approach focuses attention on the timeless beauty of the melodies. Some of these are songs that have arguably been done to death, but when handled just right they still work every time. That’s the case throughout Watch What Happens, an album highly recommended for fans of vocal jazz. For more information on Lisa Fox, including how to obtain this release, visit her website.