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