Michael's Music Blog
"In May of last year, jazz vocalist Lyn Stanley released The Moonlight Sessions Volume One, a wonderful album composed mainly of standards. Of course, the Volume One part of the title implied at least a second volume, and in October, The Moonlight Sessions Volume Two was released. Again, she is presenting familiar material, but giving it her own personal spin, and the resulting music is excellent.
This album opens with the fun “Makin’ Whoopee.” This song is almost always enjoyable, but this rendition in particular puts me in an excellent mood. Lyn Stanley’s vocal delivery is playfully sexy, her phrasing and use of pauses is delightful, and the way she sings certain lines, and even certain words, had me laughing. In particular, listen to the way she sings lines like “He’s washing dishes” and “He’s so ambitious” and “What’s this I hear.” The other musicians are in on the fun, on the sense of play, and I particularly like the work on drums and harmonica. That’s followed by “The Very Thought Of You.” I always love hearing this song. Sometimes it make me happy, and sometimes it make me so sad, because I want to hold a special someone and be held by her, and this song makes me ache for her touch. It also chokes me up the way it’s used at the end of Home For The Holidays, a movie I love. Anyway, Lyn Stanley delivers a delightful and pretty rendition, her voice sounding close to us.
“Over The Rainbow” must be one of the most popular songs of all time, and on this album Lyn Stanley gives us a wonderful version. It begins gently with just piano, and when her vocals come in, they have an intimate sound. When she sings the line about the lullaby (“There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby”), it feels like a lullaby, like her voice is gently holding us, keeping us safe, taking care of us, as we drift off into a magical land. “Over The Rainbow” is followed by another song that Judy Garland performed, Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is The Ocean?” I love the moment when it kicks in, particularly that work on horn. This is an interesting rendition. Lyn Stanley’s delivery can be haunting on “Angel Eyes,” a darker song. Oh, when she gets low, she can hold us in our tracks. But she also finds lighter moments, as when she urges us to drink up. This track features some wonderful work on piano.
On this album Lyn covers Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” the strings sounding pretty at the beginning. Carol Robbins plays harp on this track, and there are also nice touches on piano. Yet this is a somewhat restrained production, which I appreciate. The focus is on her vocals, though with swells of strings at certain moments. God, seventeen seems like ages ago, and like yesterday. “At Seventeen” is followed by a wonderful rendition of “You’ve Changed.” Wow, I love the way she sings the word “blasé” in the line “Your kisses are now so blasé.” And is the horn responding, or is it on her side? I feel like it’s the man she’s singing to, sometimes rising in response, sometimes holding back so she can say what she needs to say, for when it gets a chance to solo, its sound is gentle, not forceful, as if to show – or hope to show – he hasn’t changed.
Lyn Stanley includes versions of “How Insensitive” on both volumes of The Moonlight Sessions. On the first volume, this song featured Tamir Hendelman on piano. The version on the second volume features Christian Jacob on piano, and the song is allowed to play as an instrumental for a while. We can almost imagine that their conversation is happening during this time, and then Lyn turns to us to tell us, “How insensitive I must have seemed/When he told me that he loved me.” The tone is serious, even pained, and then the song takes on a bossa nova rhythm.
Whenever I hear “Love Me Or Leave Me,” Lynn Stanley is completely in control here, delivering a very cool rendition. This disc concludes with “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a song that is both sweet and sad. “I'll find you in the morning sun/And when the night is new/I'll be looking at the moon/But I'll be seeing you.”
Earlier this year I reviewed ‘The Moonlight Sessions Volume One’, and now Lyn is back with ‘Volume Two’ which is a direct continuation of the earlier release.
This is all about taking fourteen well-known numbers and turning them into something quite special, with her vocals at the heart and soul of every note. But, it isn’t just her sultry voice that makes this a special album, but the arrangements, which have been given loving care – and to achieve that she used no less than six different arrangers to create the perfect album. I love the harmonica (care of Bob McChesney) on “The Summer Knows”, while the slowed down piano take on “Over The Rainbow” is quite inspired. There is no doubt that the slower take suits her style perfectly.
Overall, this is a wonderfully mellow album, evocative of a time gone by, when it was about the quality of the vocals and the songs. True music, of very high quality, and if you enjoy sultry slow jazz standards then this is essential.
As insightful as the arrangements are, Stanley’s voice, of course, is the real key to these albums. She has wide, high quality vocal range with the ability to sing crystal clear highs in one phrase, then smoky, sultry lows in the next. In “Angel Eyes” (Vol. 2) and “My Funny Valentine” (Vol 1), for example, Stanley demonstrates impressive control over her voice, singing with clarity, texture, and pleasing vibrato—all leading to that essential emotional connection with listeners. Stanley’s musicians, too, are equally talented; she spared no expense here. From extended intros incorporating classical music to nuanced solos, the instrumentalists provide sensitive accompaniment to Stanley’s expressive performance. (...)
…Lyn Stanley… is fast becoming the audiophile jazz chanteuse of the decade.
“Glamour at its sultry best”
“One of the best albums of the decade!”
The Absolute Sound
Both sonically and in terms of the musical support she gets from her musicians, The Moonlight Sessions Volume 2 is up to Stanley’s usual standard. (Volume 1 was released in May; both albums are available on SACD and as limited edition 45rpm one-step pressing LPs.) She assembled four groupings of players, three led by superb pianist/arrangers—Mike Garson, Tamir Hendelman, and Christian Jacob—and consistently clear, dimensional, and richly characterized piano sound dominates the accompaniments. There are some spectacular solos from these players, Jacob on “The Very Thought of You,” Garson in “Angel Eyes” (to note just two), and extended breaks by other sidemen, including saxophonist Rickey Woodard, trombonist Bob McChesney, and Chuck Finley on trumpet and flugelhorn are equally accomplished. Chuck Berghofer is a steady presence on acoustic bass and several well-known drummers provide an alert rhythmic underpinning. Six of the 14 selections have the support of a substantial string section, recorded in Europe and convincingly inserted into the mix.
But none of the above really matters if the vocalist doesn’t deliver, and Stanley continues to up her game. Volume 2 of The Moonlight Sessions is a “concept album,” a program of songs from The Great American Songbook that explores the downside of romantic attachment. The only lighthearted, uptempo selection on the album is the first one, “Makin’ Whoopee,” which here isn’t offered as an anachronistically winking novelty number but as a reminder that relationships may start with a rush of carnality but, very soon, a potentially corrosive vulnerability can ensue. Stanley has expertly chosen and sequenced 13 songs after the opener that examine different aspects of this subject—“That Old Feeling,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?,” “Since I Fell for You,” and other familiar examples, frequently melded with classical music references by her able arrangers. Mostly, Stanley nails them all, with careful attention to every word of text and a freedom to her phrasing that makes the material fresh. Her famously “sultry” vocal instrument here seems especially world-weary, almost desperately so. The highlight of the program for me was a selection that really isn’t from the GAS, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” from that singer/songwriter’s 1975 album Between the Lines. Ian wrote the song at the age of 24, looking back at her own early adolescence, but the song’s poignancy only increases when delivered by a woman in late middle age. An arrangement with a prominent harp part suggests a painful time remembered through the haze of a lifetime. It’s heartbreaking.
All About Jazz Best Album 2017, Global Music Award Silver Award Winner 2017 Best Album and Best Female Vocalist