Dreamsville

COMPOSERS: etc,Gershwin
LABELS: Candid
PERFORMER: Stacey Kent (v), Jim Tomlinson (ts, clt, f), Colin Oxley (g), David Newton (p), Simon Thorpe (b), Jasper Kviberg (d)
CATALOGUE NO: CCD 79775

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Thanks to the celebrity endorsements – everyone from Bill Gates to Clint Eastwood is praising her to the skies – New York-raised, UK-resident singer Stacey Kent now seems set for stardom. Her previous three releases simultaneously occupied Top Ten positions in the Amazon CD chart in 2000, her date book is full and includes presenting BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Line-Up, and her fame is spreading way beyond the jazz world.

The reasons for such extraordinary popularity are not hard to identify: Kent has an immediately appealing voice, intimate yet almost conversational in its total lack of affectation, and an infectious belief in the power of a good, well-made song. And listeners respond to such transparent honesty; this album consists of most-requested ballads from Kent’s stage performance, plus a couple of personal favourites.

Highlights include two swooningly lovely Gershwin numbers – ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You’ and ‘Isn’t It a Pity’, the subtleties of each lyric highlighted with all the intelligence of a literature graduate – a perfectly judged ‘Violets for My Furs’ that can stand proudly alongside the classic versions by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, and a moving closing duo with pianist David Newton, ‘Thanks for the Memory’.

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Throughout this cleverly programmed recording, though, the Kent hallmarks shine through: the faultless diction, the highly affecting timbre infusing the songs with just the right degree of emotion, the effortless rapport with Getzian saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and the rest of a wonderfully discreet, light-swinging band. Dreamsville is a superb addition to an already highly distinguished series of albums by one of the finest interpreters of a song since Ella Fitzgerald. Chris Parker