"Do Right" (Ruby Street Music) is the debut recording of vocalist Sari Kessler. She left her career as a clinical psychologist to follow her passion as a singer, a passion that has led to share stages with saxophonist Houston Person, the late Phoebe Snow, Albert "Tootie" Heath, ands so many others. Working in clubs and venues in and around New York City plus studio work has kept Ms. Kessler busy as well as studying with Jo Lawry, Jamie Leonhart, and her mentor Kate McGarry (who co-produced the album.) In the liner notes, Ms. McGarry writes about how Ms. Kessler was dissatisfied by her first attempt at the material and went back with producer (and percussionist) James Shipp to re-record each song.
The most impressive aspect of the recording is how immediate and gentle it sounds, even when the ensemble is rocking out. The band, along with the saxophonist and guitar, swing the daylights out of "After You've Gone" (atop a happy New Orleans beat), never overwhelming the listener by outing too hard or loud. The band has great fun with "Frim Fram Sauce" (a big hit for Nat "King" Cole in 1945), making it quite fun and funky. Ms. Noordhuis returns for a sweet take on Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" - Randy Porter's arrangement builds the tune off a low piano riff and slinky rhythmic work from Shipp and the rhythm section (Ms. Kessler and the trumpeter become the horn section during the piano solo, which is a delightful touch.)
By the time you reach the final track, "Moonglow" (a duo for voice and piano), the listener has been removed from the everyday and treated like a confidant, let in on the secrets of what life is , the trials as well as the joys. There's a self-assured quality in the voice of Sari Kessler, a singer who one can tell is an avid observer and certainly a storyteller. The warmth of her voice is matched by the warm sounds captured by engineer Dave Kowalski. Pull up a chair and enjoy this musical journey. For more information, go to www.sarikessler.com.
Vocalist Carmen Bradford joins the quartet for a pair of standards. The band sets a torrid pace on "What A Little Moonlight Can Do", a tracks that features a rollicking muted trumpet solo and a spirited piano outing. She returns for a lovely rendition of "Skylark"; her emotional voice, supported by bowed bass, brushes on snare, and piano counterpoint, finds the depth in Johnny Mercer's lyrics while English builds a handsome solo from Hoagy Carmichael's timeless melody and chords.
"Imagine Nation" is a delight from start to finish. The standards show much thought going into the arrangements of such recognizable works but it's the title suite that illustrates the great promise of Darren English. He's already developed into a first-rate soloist and one hopes for a long career filled with sparkling original music.
For more information, go to www.hotshoesrecords.com or www.facebook.com/englishdarren.
"Imagine That" is a delightful 50 minutes of music. Exciting rhythms, expressive melodies, and impressive solos abound and, best of all, this is a joy-filled experience. Kudos to Daniel Freedman and friends for making music that evokes sunny days and open hearts.
For more information, go to anzicstore.com/album/imagine-that or www.danielfreedman.net.
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