It is immediately evident listening to the work of lyricist-vocalist Lorraine Feather that she is a gracious, respectful lover of words. As a brilliant writer and performer, she revels in the power, dynamic intricacies, kooky parallels, and yin-yangs of words and funhouse-mirror entendres. And when she adds to that love a sensitive vocal style that is smart, slick, and swinging, the result is an extraordinary word-song feast. All of these qualities are evident in her terrific CD, Ages.
As she did in her prior release, Language (Jazzed Media, 2008), Feather launches into selections all seemingly connected. Here, it is an array of life passages. This is thoughtful but not overbearing stuff. Feather's unique approach as vocalist to her own lyric (and to melody) seems simultaneously reverential, child-play confident, and wickedly intelligent.
From the swinging entry cut ("A Lot to Remember") throughout, Feather once again solidifies her role as a supreme mistress of making wordplay sweetly sting, swing, and connect emotionally. Her vocal chopsespecially her dynamic nuance and sing-speakare absolutely divine, as in "Peculiar Universe," the wistfully beautiful "Perugia," and ditzy-humorous "I Forgot to Have Children." At times it seems Feather reaches out with her delicate fingers, sometimes share-speaking across a café table ("Two Desperate Women in Their Late Thirties"), sometimes ragtime frantic ("Scrabble"). There's connection galore throughout.
While Ages is not the first-round knockout punch of Feather's prior release, Language, it certainly is an outstanding and special CD. Feather and crew make the most of the intriguing platforms provided. Superbly supported by some of Los Angeles's best musicians, including Shelly Berg and Russell Ferrante on piano, Warren Luening on trumpet, Michael Valerio on bass, and Grant Geissman on guitar, with guest appearances by pianist Dick Hyman and banjoist Bela Fleck, the entire ensemble generates abundant energy and taste. Composers Berg, Hyman, and Eddie Arkin offer strong melodic content the equal of Feather's superb lyrics. However, Ages is primarily a showcase for lyric and line and a truly marvelous singer's unique attachment to them (the triple-meter throwback melody of "Girl with the Lazy Eye" and the moving "I Always Had a Thing for You").
Ages is exquisite, impressive music. It is marvelous listening offered up by a brainy gold-standard bearer of lyric who happens to be an incredibly talented vocal artist. This Feather is a heavyweight at both. Ages is golden.
Track Listing: A Lot to Remember; Peculiar Universe; I Forgot To Have Children; Old at 18/Dog Bowl; Perugia; Things I Learned in High School; Two Desperate Women in Their Late 30s; The Girl With the Lazy Eye; How Did We End Up Here?; Scrabble; I Always Had a Thing for You.
Personnel: Russell Ferrante: piano (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9), arranger (2, 5, 7, 8); Shelly Berg: piano (3, 6, 11), arranger (3, 6, 11); Dick Hyman: piano (10), arranger (10); Michael Valerio: bass (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11); Grant Geissman: guitar (1, 3, 6, 7, 11); Eddie Arkin: rhythm guitar (1), arranger (1, 4, 9); Bela Fleck: banjo (2); Michael Shapiro: drums (2, 4, 7, 9), percussion (2, 4, 6, 7, 9); Gregg Field: drums (1, 3, 6, 11); Tony Morales: dog bowl and additional percussion (4), trash can (7); Warren Luening: trumpet (1, 2, 4); Bob Leatherbarrow: vibes (9).