Liane Carroll ‘Ballads’ (Quiet Money) 4/5

London born, but Hastings resident vocalist Liane Carroll once more hooks up with producer James McMillan for a stunning and essentially stripped down take on the ballad repertoire. This is indeed a fine follow up to the the critically acclaimed 2011 CD ‘Up and Down’. Within the limitations of the ballad format, McMillan and Carroll have provided a good deal of variety in the different types of accompaniment and deserve great credit for the amount of thought and attention to detail that has gone into this recording. This is illustrated on the song ‘Here’s to life’ which was famously interpreted by Shirley Horn. Here the very essence of the song is conjured up by Carroll with a memorable delivery that includes accompaniment from muted harmon trumpet, acoustic guitar and vibes. This contrasts beautifully elsewhere with lush brass orchestrations on ‘Only the lonely’ that could very easily have been arranged by one Gil Evans. On ‘Goodbye’ there is the tasteful use of strings with delicate drumming and piano accompaniment while on ‘Mad about the boy’ rather than embellishing the song with strings as Dinah Washington memorably did in the latter part of her career, instead the song is pared down to a piano introduction from guest musicican Gwilym Simcock and a wonderful duet between pianist and vocalist thus ensues. In general pianistic duties are performed with aplomb by Mark Edwards and he is on hand for the collaboration with Carroll on ‘Two lovely people’ which was such a wonderful duet first time round for Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. Perhaps among all the songs performed here, pride of place should go to the gorgeous rendition of ‘My one and only love’ where the deliberate phrasing by Carroll works wonders in transforming the piece and her vocal range is well and truly showcased here, which in fact has never sounded better. For a left-field take, the Todd Rundgren composition ‘Pretending to car’ is a surprise inclusion that features some fine bass clarinet playing from Julian Siegal. While Sarah Vaughan and Dee Dee Bridgewater will remain formative influences on her work, Liane Carroll has her own distinctive voice and it is this which impresses most here. Liane Carroll will perform at selective venues in London during April.

Tim Stenhouse