I Can Cook Too, a self-produced album to be released later this year, is the first CD collaboration by husband and wife jazz veterans Ken Hitchcock and Sue Halloran. Putting their distinctive mark on a mix of show tunes, standards and a curiosity or two, the couple, joined by a bunch of their friends, has fashioned an album that showcases both Halloran’s impressive vocals and Hitchcock’s versatile musicianship as they tackle a repertoire both familiar and off the beaten track.
Halloran is a woman who knows what to do with a song, and she has the vocal chops to do just that. Her phrasing is imaginative and creative. She reads a lyric with intimate elegance. She is less interested in vocal gymnastics than in emotional honesty, and that honesty comes through in each and every song on the album. Whether it’s her rollicking take on the title song, Bernstein and Comden’s “I Can Cook Too” from On the Town, or the soft nostalgia of “A Quiet Thing” from Kander and Ebb’s Flora the Red Menace, she brings out the best in the music.
Hitchcock, a woodwind virtuoso who has played with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Steely Dan, Buddy Rich, and Machito, to say nothing of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes in a variety of combinations on different tracks. And if that isn’t enough he plays flute, alto flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet as well. For example on the pair’s swinging version of the Harold Arlen classic “Let’s Fall in Love,” he is listed as playing two different flutes, two clarinets and three saxes. Not only does he skillfully accent Halloran’s vocals, his solo passages are solid complements. His introductory prelude to American songbook standard “I’ll Take Romance” shows just how well he sets up the vocal, not to mention the finesse of his musical echoes. Halloran and Hitchcock work together like a well-oiled machine.
Most of the tunes on the album were arranged by Carlos Franzetti, who is credited with bringing in the 31 strings of the City of Prague Philharmonic to enrich the sound on “A Quiet Thing” and “Let’s Fall in Love.” He is also responsible for the lovely arrangement of “I’ve Got it Bad/Autumn Nocturne” on which he also plays the piano. His arrangement of “My Funny Valentine,” a tribute to engineer Manfred Knoop, who had recorded five of the tracks on the album before his death, is limited to vocals and clarinets at the request of Halloran and Hitchcock. It is nothing short of an evocative, atmospheric elegy that transforms the classic.
Other musicians playing on various tracks include guitarist Romero Lubambo, drummers Ray Marchica and Clint DeGanon, bassists David Finck and Chip Jackson, and pianist Mark Soskin; also, Gary Versace plays the organ on “I Can Cook Too” while trumpets and trombones are handled by Nick Marchione, Jim Hynes, Keith O’Quinn and Mike Davis. The arrangement is by Rob Mounsey, although the contemporary lyrical flourishes are Halloran’s. Mike Holober, who arranged “Hey Daddy,” also plays the Fender Rhodes on the track.
The liner notes indicate that the album comes just in time for the couple’s 25th anniversary: “We couldn’t have asked for a better gift to each other.” It isn’t a bad gift for the rest of us either.