The thing that intrigued me the most about jazz vocalist/pianist Liz Childs’ second album Take Flight was that among the seventeen jazz standards and tunes from the great American songbook, the kinds of songs you would normally expect from a jazz singer, she had included two pieces from Leonard Cohen and one from Bob Dylan. Having just reviewed a CD from Monika Borzym, another promising young jazz vocalist, that featured an unlikely repertoire of music from the likes of Fiona Apple and Amy Winehouse, I was interested in seeing what Childs was doing with this material.
There is nothing wrong with songs that are tried and true, but there is something important to be gained both for the artist and the genre when they broaden their horizons. Jazz, after all, is in a real sense about breaking away from the same old same old. It is about taking a piece of music and making it your own. Childs takes us on a biting ride through Cohen’s iconic “Hallelujah.” At times her voice fairly reeks with bitterness and scorn, at least until the very end. “Famous Blue Raincoat” is a wistful haunting gem. Childs invests both lyrics with an emotional truth that is nothing short of mesmerizing. Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” gets a swinging old style treatment with some nice guitar solo work from Ed MacEachen. Truth to tell, I wouldn’t have minded a few more of these kinds of songs.
Not that there’s anything wrong her work on the standards; she has a voice that rings with bell like clarity, that can move from intense passion to playful girlishness with equal appeal. She takes a lyric and plumbs its depth weaving sweet scat arabesques around its melodies. Two good examples are the songs which open and close the album. Jimmy van Heusen’s “It Could Happen to You” and “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” the Cole Porter classic, both highlight her scatting talents. Her vocal play on “fire” and “desire” in the Porter tune is a kick. There’s a nice little obligatory bossa nova in Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Dindi.” There is even a nod to the blues with Bobby Troupe’s “Baby All the Time.” Among the other standards on the album are Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” Lorenz Hart’s “Lover,” and Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette,” each getting a fine reading.
The album takes its title from an original piece by guitarist MacEachen, who also is responsible for arranging ten of the songs on the CD. “Take Flight” offers some nice opportunities for interaction between the singer’s scatting and the composer’s guitar.
Childs is backed by MacEachen, Dan Fabricatore on bass, and Anthony Pinciotti on drums. She, herself, has decided to escape from the piano for this album. “I wanted,” she says, “to experience the freedom to explore singing without being constricted by sitting at the piano, and to be able to more completely respond to the band as a vocalist only. So, that’s what this CD is the start of.” If this is any indication of what she can do standing at the front of the band, one can only hope to hear more from her in the future.