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Melody Breyer-Grell: Fascinatin' Rhythms *

Album Notes

For her follow-up to the debut CD The Right Time, jazz vocalist Melody Breyer-Grell has chosen to mine the well-worn songbook of George and Ira Gershwin. There are advantages and disadvantages to this strategy. Although it is clear Breyer-Grell loves these songs and they are close to her soul, this is material many others have covered, and done well. In her static, stoic way, the vocalist sings in a consistent, slight vibrato, at times cutesy, but her manner is unaffected, with little animation, chance-taking, or bravado. While her voice does resemble that of Roseanna Vitro, she does not have Vitro's verve, humor, or expressiveness. Similar to Vitro, Breyer-Grell knows how to pick expert backup musicians, in this case drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Dean Johnson, while tenor saxophonist Don Braden, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, and guitarist John Hart all contribute mightily toward the sounds the vocalist is able to craft. The star here is the lesser-known pianist Gloria Cooper, as she cements the arrangements with a witty verve and depth of vision that command a closer overall listen. There are some interesting arrangements here, including the tacked-on low-level dramatism of the classical-sounding "Second Prelude" as the underlying harmony to the main line of "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise." Hart's witty and wise playing shines throughout, but especially on the fine swinger "Who Cares?," the ballad "Someone to Watch Over Me," and the slow samba "I've Got a Crush on You." Braden acts interactively, mostly in call and response on the easy-swinging "Nice Work If You Can Get It," accented by Kahlil Kwame Bell's bongos, and very much in a John Coltrane sentimental mood for the dour and regretful torch song "But Not for Me." There's some classy, patented, and at times typical music from Breyer-Grell and her mates, likely more refined and stretched out in live performance than the at times time-constricted, sterile studio environs. [The song credits incorrectly list track number one as "Somebody Loves Me" and track number two as "Nice Work If You Can Get It," when on the CD they are performed in the reverse.] ~ Michael G. Nastos


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