The Verve/Columbia Records release Love Is Here To Stay makes jazz history primarily because of the two vocal legends whose names rest above the title. True, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett have teamed up on duets before, but never for an entire album. And with this project—all Gershwin tunes—the two demonstrate just how abiding American Songbook material is. The album represents the talents of three generations of traditional pop musicians, each one a crossover from jazz artist to household name.
George Gershwin wrote the music to “Love Is Here To Stay” for the 1938 film The Goldwyn Follies, dying of a brain tumor before the song was fully completed—it was the last song he would write. (Lyricist Ira later added the words, written in homage to his brother.) Had he lived, George would have witnessed a couple of cycles of Songbook popularity, led by charismatic male crooners like Bennett and Frank Sinatra in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and by equally charming vocalists like Krall and Michael Bublé in the ‘90s. These songs do not require virtuosic displays of musical sportsmanship to enthrall—their accessibility is precisely why they are beloved. The same is true of the singers who popularize them.
Love Is Here To Stay comprises 12 selections—10 mid-tempo duets and one solo track each for the two singers. The vocals stand in bas relief against the temperate harmonic backdrop of the Bill Charlap Trio; what moves to the forefront of each track are the singers’ individual approaches to a sung melody. Bennett goes for thrusts and parries (“I Got Rhythm” and “Fascinating Rhythm”), while Krall embellishes the written line with subdued phrasing choices (“’S Wonderful” and “But Not For Me”). For those who prefer their standards hard-boiled and blazing, this album will be too soft, to be sure. But together these two singers—friends for at least 20 years—create the bedrock on which future songbook singers will stand.
Also in honor of George Gershwin, singer/pianists Champion Fulton and John Proulx have created an 80-minute revue of Gershwin standards, concert pieces, and more obscure tunes. The world premiere of the four-handed, two-voiced Here To Stay is slated for Birdland on Oct. 23, after which the two performers will take the revue on the road. All proceeds will benefit the University of Michigan’s Gershwin Initiative, an educational venture that seeks to bring the works of the Gershwin brothers to students, scholars, and audiences around the world.
The backstory for Judith Lorick’s sophomore album, The Second Time Around (JLJ International) provides the through-line for a compelling set of tunes. More than 50 years ago she met, loved, and lost the guy; today, reunited with him, she puts her gorgeous voice in service to telling their love story in song. Be prepared: The album is more about heartbreak (the too-sad-to-be-borne “For All We Know/I’ll Be Seeing You”) than about love gone right (the upbeat, idealistic “Lucky To Be Me”). But rest assured that the story has a happy ending. Lorick presents the new recording at Smoke on Oct. 18, backed by an uber-talented band: pianist Eric Reed, bassist Dave Baron, and drummer McClenty Hunter.
Five-time Grammy nominee Karrin Allyson, best known for her husky voice and versatility as a singer, has released her first album of originals, Some Of That Sunshine (Kaserecords). Allyson the songwriter, true to form, moves blithely from one feel to another, be it a blues (“Nobody Said Love Was Easy”), a swing (“Some Of That Sunshine”), or a pop tune (“As Long As I Know You Love Me”). A welcome next step for this enticing musician. Look for her at the New York Cabaret Convention on Oct. 10.
A restless American troubadour, Madeleine Peyroux, too, has a new album of mostly originals. On Anthem(Verve) she explores some of the more sobering of life’s experience through a dozen contemporary jazz tunes. Her impressionistic cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” stands out for its dispassionate take on loss and redemption. Peyroux will be at Sony Hall on Oct. 13-14.
Gig alerts: Veteran free improviser and vocal composer Jay Clayton will reprise her annual birthday jazz bash at Kitano with her trio featuring pianist George Cables and trombonist Ed Neumeister on Oct. 17. Next, China-born, New York-trained jazz/funk/blues singer Annie Chen plays Cornelia Street Cafe on Oct. 19 and Tomi Jazz on Oct. 27.
(Reprinted from October 2018 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.)