Beginning with Brent and Dennis’s “Angel Eyes,” Anna Lyman relives tradition in modernity. If that animation causes discomfort, it is due to the degree that we have shrugged off the jazz vocal traditions that make It’s Lush
a valuable musical keepsake.
Lyman’s first achievement in this record is not vocal supremacy; it is the recognition that jazz vocals belong in the context of other musical players – a fact that is beautifully acknowledged in the first five of 60 minutes. Jazz vocalists typically downplay the instruments that support their vocals; Lyman resisted that urge.
”If you’ll turn back/We’ll pick up where we left off...”
Anna Lyman certainly turns back the jazz clock. This record bathes us in classic tunes from Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Burke, Erroll Garner and Cole Porter. Classic structure is played out in verses, bridges, breaks and competent solos from Walter Martella, Keith Copeland and producer Rick Kilburn.
It’s Lush plays like a live jazz set. The pacing is expertly considered and faithfully delivered. Lyman’s choice of jazz from specific periods inadvertently invokes (in a seasoned listener) images of the bygone past. These songs have been sung in 1000 smoky bars by 1000 singers for what feels like 1000 years: this is a good thing.
Put on this CD and you will swing. “You’d Be So Nice To Come To” bops with the accents that make three minutes sizzle. “Lazy Afternoon” swings us into a resonant Sunday afternoon memory while delivering a diversity of musical forays. Ellington’s title argues for its own truth: “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got Swing.” Shoo-be-doo-wah.
The record’s two original songs so respect tradition as to render them indistinct from the others. “If You’ll Turn Back” and “Cool Jazz” are structured and played to the dictates of the genre itself and that is fine. May all jazz vocalists have the self-confidence to make room on their records for instrumentals, and may all accompanists turn such opportunities on their ears as Lyman’s band mates did here.
It’s Lush shows us how easily jazz vocal culture can be perpetuated. This record assembles great songs played well and sung with sincerity that so many fans feel has been sacrificed in jazz. There is no gimmicky production and scarce post-production refinement. That’s because the music and the musicians speak for themselves. Anna Lyman and band must be commended for such honesty on the record.
Proponents of music like this often think the world is going hell in a hurry. Not as long as records like Anna Lyman’s It’s Lush continue to be produced.
Visit Anna Lyman on the Web.
Personnel: Anna Lyman (vocals); Walter Martella (piano and trumpet); Keith Copeland (drums); Rick Kilburn