Jazz chanteuse Sandra Marlowe, one powerful vocalist, releases her debut CD, True Blue, at the end of the month, and it is a winner. The album is a blend of standards from the Great American Songbook combined with a more adventurous composition or two sung with an attention to creative detail that makes each and every one of the tunes her very own. Marlowe is no novice. As her bio indicates she has been around the San Francisco music scene for 20 years singing with a variety of ensembles including the “Avalon Cats,” a Los Angeles based swing band and the South Bay Swing Band, appearing on their CD Uptown Stomp. This is a woman who knows what to do with a song, and True Blue gives her the opportunity to do it.
The album opens with a sweet Latin take on the Cole Porter classic “I Concentrate on You.” Her inventive phrasing and musical virtuosity fill the song with new life. It is available for free download on Marlowe’s website and is an excellent advertisement for what is on tap for the rest of the album’s dozen tracks.
A powerhouse “Black Coffee” follows. It begins with a low down bluesy preamble from trumpeter John Worley, Jr. leading into a rich old style blues vocal from Marlowe against some fine piano work from co-producer/arranger Larry Dunlap and Charlie McCarthy’s saxophone. The hoary “Autumn Leaves” opens with an almost churchlike instrumental intro before the singer kicks in with a laid back contemporary vocal. Then she moves into the less well known “There’s No You” to create an interesting new medley. Later in the album she pairs Kurt Weill’s “Lonely House” from his opera Street Scene, lyrics by Langston Hughes with Cy Coleman’s “Every Breath I Take” in an atmospheric gem showing what she can do with lesser known repertoire. It is an emotional highlight.
Along with Dunlap, McCarthy, and Worley, Marlowe is joined on the album by bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis. Trombonist Jeff Cressman does some exciting work on “I Concentrate on You” and the “Autumn Leaves” medley.
Elsewhere, Marlowe does a really sexy job on the jazz standard, “Honeysuckle Rose” throwing in a bop touch with a nod to Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple.” There is an upbeat romp through “The Song is You” and a swinging version of Chick Corea’s homage to Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, “Spain.” Marlowe does a softly coquettish take on “A Sunday Kind of Love,” and a lighter bluesy “More Than You Know.”
“Love Dance,” “You Don’t Love Me” and “These Eyes” round out this very fine debut album. Taken altogether, it is a set that emphasizes the singer’s versatility as she works her magic with a lyric.