British jazz vocalist Liane Carroll returns with her third album in six years, following on from ‘Ballads’ in 2013 and ‘Up and Down’ from 2011. This time the theme running through the selections is that of the sea and it was both friend and lyricist Joe Stilgoe who, in penning the title track, inspired Carroll to draw upon a theme-based repertoire for her new album. The result is arguably her strongest recording thus far, with the fully matured voice belonging in the classic jazz tradition alongside Sarah Vaughan whom she most sounds akin to, with a classy nod to Dee Dee Bridgewater as well.
This is one of the most accomplished vocal jazz albums of the year with nothing superfluous, some well thought out choices and an exquisite and empathetic rapport between the excellent rhythm section and Liane Carroll who,
collectively, improvise and experiment with traditional tempi, deftly adapting to their own needs. An immediate favourite is the all out uptempo attack on ‘Almost like being in love’ and Carroll really nails this tune with an a cappella section part way through. For sheer variety within one song, the gorgeous interpretation of Kurt Weil and Ira Gershwin’s, ‘My ship’, could scarcely be bettered and from the blues-inflected phrasing of the leisurely piano intro through to the shifting of gear upwards half way through proceedings, this might just as easily be a distinguished singer who is native of Chicago or Detroit. The cherry on the cake of the piece is the vocalese scatting with a piano solo of distinction to round off a most memorable reworking.
Guest saxophonist Julian Siegel delivers a lovely tenor solo on ‘Nobody’s fault but mine’, originally a Led Zeppelin tune, but transformed into a stunning blues on which Carroll excels. For added variety in the choice of songs, singer-songwriter territory beckons on Mary Gauthier’s folk composition, ‘Mercy now’, which is faithfully interpreted with the subtle use of brass. Pared down sound with just vocals and piano greet the listener on the reflective, ‘Get me through December’, while there is something of a classic 1950s feel (à la Chris Connor) on the guitar plus vocals duet of ‘I cover the waterfront’, Bob Luft providing the gentle guitar accompaniment. Finally, mention must be made of the sterling efforts of pianist, arranger and multi-instrumentalist James McMillan in whose Hastings studio the album was recorded. His input is indispensable to the successful outcome of the recording. Terrific late night music to wash away those winter blues. Liane Carroll is currently on a UK tour, performing on Sunday 22 November at the 606 Club as part of the London Jazz Festival.