New York Voices

Reminiscing in Tempo



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MUSIC REVIEW BY Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online


Still swinging in their fourth decade together, the New York Voices continue to define the highest standard for vocal jazz groups. Their recordings are appearing at fairly regular intervals these days, and their latest disc, "Reminiscing in Tempo" includes a fine selection of jazz standards and originals. The album opens with a dynamic arrangement of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo á la Turk" with Lauren Kinhan's vocalese lyrics augmenting the older words by Al Jarreau. Kim Nazarian sings the original Paul Desmond solo with great style, and the latter part of Brubeck's solo is sung by the ensemble. The quartet moves to another piano icon with Chick Corea's "Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly" featuring a brief ensemble chorus surrounding a fine guitar solo by Jesse Lewis. Kinhan soars over the group in the final chorus. "Answered Prayers" uses Peter Eldridge's English lyrics to Ivan Lins' melody. The attractive samba arrangement is enhanced by Nazarian's sweet lead vocal, Darmon Meader's edgy tenor sax solos, and a tight six-piece horn ensemble. Eldridge is featured on Fred Hersch's "A Dance for Me", and the vocal chart devised by Meader and Eldridge pairs off the voices in striking combinations. Eldridge's uniquely muffled scat solo evokes the sound of a laid-back trombone. The group shows off its classical chops with a pair of wordless selections by Ignacio Cervantes, "Los Tres Golpes" and "Invitación". It's a little strange to hear this group sing with pronounced vibrato, but the effect is always under control, and the track displays another side of this group's remarkable flexibility. Meader's "Moments in a Mirror" reflects contemporary vocal trends. It is an a cappella track with impressive beatboxing by Gabriel Hahn (especially since the arrangement uses plenty of mixed meter passages!). The Voices return to a straight-ahead swing style for an up-tempo romp on Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me" with superb melodic variations by the singers, and Meader improvising on both voice and saxophone. The title track is a vintage 1935 Duke Ellington composition here set to lyrics by Mel Tormé. Ellington wrote the 12-minute piece as a memorial to his mother, but Tormé's lyrics sound like a typical love song. The Voices (with Nazarian again in the lead) sing the piece with great sensitivity, but I wish they would have created a new set of lyrics closer to the spirit of Ellington's original. A New York Voices album wouldn't be complete without a new original by Kinhan and Eldridge, and "The Forecast is Sunny" is a fine new addition to their works. Kinhan's arrangement opens a magical array of vocal and instrumental colors which offers constant surprises to the listener. "Avalon", a piece that has appeared in various guises in the group's solo and collective discography, is here presented as a retro swinger, adapted by Meader from a setting by Ray Charles. Closing with a tender unaccompanied version of the Beatles' "In My Life", "Reminiscing in Tempo" stands as one of the New York Voices' strongest albums to date. Happy 30th anniversary—may you create harmony for many more years!





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