Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Listen to: Sophie Milman

In the Moonlight
Sophie Milman
EntertainmentOne Records

I heard a lot of really nice discs last years by female jazz vocalists, many of which got tremendous play in magazines and blogs, and several of whom made a slew of top ten charts at the end of the year. From what I recall, the most talked about and well-reviewed recordings were those of Gretchen Parlato ("The Lost and Found"), Tierney Sutton ("American Road"), and Karrin Allison (Round Midnight). I am a big fan of the latter two, particularly the wonder, wistful "Round Midnight." 

I would add Sophie Millman to the group of outstanding singers , with her latest disc "In the Moonlight" continuing a string of outstanding recordings, including "Take Love Easy" and "Make Someone Happy.
Born in Russia, raised for much of her childhood in Israel, and then relocated to Canada in the early 1990s, Sophie Milman is a true international star. She began singing to her father's recordings at a very young age, with a particular fondness for Mahalia Jackson, and later icons such as Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder. She was raised on the jazz greats, the American Songbook, musicals, and of course pop music, and she brings it all to her music with  her own sound. Her voice is wonderfully expressive, pulling great emotion from her treatment of each word in a lyric, and highly flexible. She slides in and out of the music, and ranges from the smokey and sultry to the pure and crystalline.

Given her flexibility and expressiveness, it is no wonder she is willing to take on a range of sources on "In the Moonlight." From the songbook comes Gershwin's "Do It Again" and Weill's "Speak Low", from musical theater a lovely rendition of "Till There Was You", and from the world of art music and streets of Paris Serge Gainsbourg's "C'est Petit Reins" sung in french with a great accordion accompanist. Complementing the generally mid-tempo arrangements is  "No More Blues", by Jobim and Hendricks which closes out the set with a lively bossa nova. And contrasting the older material, which also includes two by the Duke, is "So Sorry", by fellow Canadian Feist,  a singer/songwriter/rocker seldom thought of in the jazz idiom.

The album waas produced with some amazing sidemen, along with some very well placed, sotto voice strings on selected songs. The supporting musicians include Kevin Hays, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Lewis Nash, drums; Gerald Clayton, piano; Julian Lage, guitar; Gil Goldstein, accordion; Randy Brecker, flugelhorn; and Chris Potter, tenor sax; plus others on selected songs.

Regardless of what she is singing -- ballads, classics, bossas -- her intimate vocal delivery makes every track a winner on this, her fourth disc.   The music sounds almost like a live date, with a freshsness and swing that brings out the best in this young and upcoming singer. Highly recommended.


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