Hilary Kole: You Are There (2010)
With her crystal clear voice and precise phrasing, singer Hilary Kole pulls off the delightful and unique You Are There. This is one of a kind, because eleven different top-of-the-line piano accompanists join her, with two appearing twice.
You Are There's 13 songs are all ballads, sung passionately, simply, and with no frills. According to the liner notes, most takes were spontaneous, with no charts or rehearsal. Kole's sense of dynamics is also effective, the way she builds to a climax. The only possible criticism of the CD is that it could have included an up-temp tune or two.
Kole is a regular on the New York jazz scene, with frequent performances at Birdland and other clubs including the Jazz Standard and the Iridium. She attracted great interest in 2008 with her debut, Haunted Heart, also on Justin Time.
All the pianists do their job impeccably. The late Hank Jones is on two cutsthe venerable pop classic by Shapiro, Campbell and Connolly, "If I Had You," and Burke and Van Heusen's "But Beautiful." Three of Van Heusen's songs are includedcertainly a bow to him.
The still very active jazz icon, Dave Brubeck, is also featured two occasions. His own "Strange Meadowlark" is particularly lovely, with Kole doing full justice to the poetic lyrics of Brubeck's wife, Iola.
Kole also takes Billy Strayhorn's ultra-romantic "Lush Life" to a lofty level, with pianist Kenny Barron breaking out at the finish with a choice improvisation, paving the way for Kole's dramatic close. Kole's rousing version of Stephen Sondheim's "I Remember," with pianist Mike Renzi, is another good example of her astute, theatrical style.
In a fitting touch, Michel Legrand joins Kole on his own "How Do You Keep the Music Playing," while, in a change of pace, pianist/vocalist Freddy Cole comes in with his honey-coated voice for a teasing duo version of Burke and Van Heusen's "It's Always You."
Perhaps the standout here is "All the Way," the Van Heusen and Cahn song on which many great singers, including Frank Sinatra, have put their stamp. Monty Alexander's lightly swinging accompaniment spotlights Kole's fresh interpretation of the lyric.
Track Listing: If I Had You; Every Time We Say Goodbye; It's Always You; Lush Life; These Foolish Things; I Remember; How Do You Keep the Music Playing?; But Beautiful; Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise; Strange Meadowlark; You Are There; Two For the Road; All the Way.
Personnel: Hilary Kole: vocals; Monty Alexander: piano (13); Kenny Barron: piano (4); Dave Brubeck: piano (5, 10); Alan Broadbent: piano (11); Freddy Cole: vocals and piano (3); Benny Green: piano (9); Hank Jones: piano (1, 8); Steve Kuhn: piano (12); Michel Legrand: piano (7); Mike Renzi: piano (6); Cedar Walton: piano (2).