Vocalist Kelly Harland has been singing for a long, long time. I'm sure you've heard her, but I'm also sure - unless you're a music insider - that you don't know her.
Why? Because she's what is known as an "on-call" studio and backup vocalist. This Seattle-based artists is one of the many folks who make singing commercials and is hired by visiting "name" acts, to be part of background vocal groups that support the shows.
"Long Ago and Far Away," Harland's second solo release for Origin, features 10 of Jerome Kern's most beautiful melodies.
Most of the tunes were written for Broadway shows; as such, the lyrics were done by luminaries such as Oscar Hammerstein II, Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer and Otto Harbach. We've heard these songs hundreds of times, but perhaps only rarely in this fashion; these arrangements include the complete preamble, verses and choruses.
Broadway fans will be familiar with the format of hits associated with many of these shows. Each tune was preceded by a preamble, usually sung but sometimes spoken, that led into the verse. We tend to remember the verse; as time has passed, the preambles have been forgotten.
That's a shame, because the melodic lines and words of the preambles often were more beautiful, and moving, than the verses and choruses that followed.
Well, Harland includes everything, and that makes this album special.
The accompanying duo is outstanding: Bill Mays on piano, and Harland's husband, Chuck Deardorf, on bass. Mays has played with, or arranged for, almost every prime artist you could name; only Bill Evans was equally talented on the instrument. Mays' intros, backup, melodic lines and solos are gorgeous, and of course they all swing. The same is true of Deardorf's bass work.
I enjoyed their contributions every bit as much as Harland's singing.
This is a masterful combo, and I strongly recommend it: both to those who enjoy Kern, and to anyone who loves jazz.