On this, only her fifth release as a leader in a 40-year career as a jazz vocalist, Libby York is backed by an unusual instrumentation—guitar, bass and (on only 4 of the 12 tracks) drums. There's no piano in sight, but you
won't miss it.
The singer has a warm, expressive and mature voice that will remind you of the late Carol Sloane. She's aces on ballads like "Cloudy Day" (circa 1958), written by Marvin Fisher and Joseph Allen McCarthy, Jr. and performed most memorably by Peggy Lee (on her album Mink Jazz). They take it at similar tempos, and with similar investment. Artie Shaw's "Moonray" would have been catnip for Ms. Lee, but it was Helen Forrest who
sang it way back when. The nod goes to York's version. York deserves credit for going beyond the most familiar standards here. Sure, she does "Mountain Greenery" and "Something Cool", both of which have been much recorded lately. But she sure swings the former selection, complete with finger snaps after a contemplative guitar-led intro. She also goes deep into the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vin'cius De Moraes catalog for a happy mid-tempo gem called "Estrada Blanca (This Happy Madness)". Bassist Rodney Whitaker is featured on this one.
It's great to hear "An Occasional Man" again. It's via Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane in 1955, and Julie London had her way with it. With her very own tropical island, she only needs the guy every now and then. The singer is supposed to sound satisfied and, boy, does she. Whitaker again gets the solo nod, followed by guitarist Randy Napoleon, a one-time regular with the late singer Freddy Cole.
On Johnny Mercer's classic "Hit the Road to Dreamland", York hits her marks like the knowing pro she is—on stage, in the corner, while Sinatra is across the room hitting up the bartender for last call. Napoleon has a lovely late-night solo out of the Barney Kessel tradition. "Throw It Away" is one of Abbey Lincoln's best songs, and Whitaker's bass is its sole accompaniment until Napoleon comes in gently. Drummer Keith Hall is admirably subdued here. Lincoln takes it just a bit faster, with accordion, but this version is fine for savoring the lyric.
"Rhode Island Is Famous for You" by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz (Jonathan's dad) came out of a 1940s musical revue, and among its knowing interpreters are Blossom Dearie and Erin McKeown. York got it from
Sandy Stewart. It's one of the great state songs, along with "I Like Jersey Best". John Pizzarelli, who does the latter live to a fare-thee-well, is perhaps hipper than York, but not by much. She sings it "Colorad-ah" so it
rhymes with "Nevada". "It's Love", via Leonard Bernstein/Adolph Green/Betty Comden and the musical Wonderful Town, is a standard and York's sprightly version, features a straight-ahead solo by Napoleon. "When October
Goes", from Mercer and, yes, Barry Manilow, is treated by York like a venerable standard, which means it's far less gloppy than Manilow's version. Still kind of gloppy, though.