Nancy Wilson: Turned to Blue (2006)
This recording is like heirloom silver: finely etched and gleaming with a rich and mellow sheen. Its many delights include top-level players, excellent arrangements and production values, and a variety of configurations from a smoking all-star big band to intimate quartets. There are also great solo turns by the likes of John Clayton, James Moody, Bob Mintzer, Hubert Laws, Tom Scott, Dave Samuels, Andy Narrell and Billy Taylor.
Then there's the introduction of splendid new material, including a great breakup song ("Knitting Class") that's sure to be covered more often than cake at a picnic. Maya Angelou's poetry becomes a haunting ballad, "Turned to Blue," while the composer of the profoundly moving "Here's to Life" offers a sequel: "I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up," which could be the next boomer anthem.
All of this provides the perfect setting for the center sparkler, Nancy Wilson herself. At age 69, she remains the musical definition of class, using her lovely, flexible, still-powerful voice to caress and swing, whisper and wail. Unlike much of the current crop of female singers, she aims her spotlight on emotional meaning, rather than melismatic tricks; the ever-elegant Wilson, a master of nuanced dynamics, never crosses the line into schmaltz. And when she tells her song-stories, you believe every wordshe's met love and loss in all their permutations, and her disclosures reach out to touch the listener, heart to heart.
Wilson's genuine lyrical connection and deep musicality are evident throughout (catch that involuntary sensuous reaction to uber-bassist Clayton's solo opening on "Just Once"), and her trademark is hereher bluesy vocal hitch, that patented uptick that conveys such passion and soul. This release will surely delight the legions of long-term Wilson fans, even as it gains her new ones.
Turned to Blue is a worthy followup to Wilson's 2005 Grammy-winner, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), adding to the growing reputation of the MCG Jazz label for carefully crafted, reliably excellent music.
Track Listing: This is All I Ask; Take Love Easy; Turned to Blue; Knitting Class; Be My Love; Taking a Chance on Love; Just Once; These Golden Years; I Don't Remember Ever Growing Up; Old Folks; I'll Be Seeing You.
Personnel: Nancy Wilson: vocal; Alon Yavnai, Llew Matthews, Dr. Billy Taylor: piano; Marty Ashby, acoustic guitar; Nilson Matta, Rufus Reid, Kip Reed, John Clayton: bass; Mike Tomaro, Tia Fuller, alto saxophone; Bob Mintzer, Tom Scott, Andy Snitzer, Eric DeFade, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, tenor saxophone; Jim Hynes, Steve Hawk, Sean Jones, Jack Schantz, trumpet; Ed Kocher, Douglas Purviance, Jay Ashby, trombone; Hubert Laws, Jennifer Conner: flute; Mike Tomaro: clarinet, bass clarinet; Jim German: baritone saxophone; Jeremy Black, Kate Black, Kate Hatmaker, Stephanie Tertick: violin; Mikhail Istomin: cello; Vito DiSalvo: accordian; Andy Narrell: steel pans; Dave Samuels: vibraphone; Winard Harper, Jamey Haddad, Roy McCurdy, Terry Clarke, Portinho, Jay Ashby: drums, percussion.