Live in Manhattan

COMPOSERS: Dankworth,Vincent Youmans
LABELS: Gold Label
PERFORMER: Cleo Laine (v), John Dankworth (cl, as, ss), Tommy James (p), Dave Dunaway (b), Jim Zimmerman (d), Jay Branford (bs, bcl), Robert Magnuson (ts, f)
CATALOGUE NO: GLD CD 8017

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Cleo Laine and John Dankworth spend half of each year in the USA, where they have a huge audience, and half in the UK at their Wavendon home where they run the Stables, a music centre aiming to break down barriers between different types of music.

Live in Manhattan was recorded at New York’s Carnegie Hall, with musical director Dankworth’s sextet of American musicians, and his arrangements are so ingenious that the band often sounds bigger than it is.

The fare is a cornucopia of 15 standards, all given fresh readings and swinging and ‘breathing’ in different ways, plus a ten-minute medley of six Vincent Youmans songs. Laine and Dankworth seem to become more dynamic and daring with age: her ear, memory and virtuosity are supreme and his alto sax now has a passionate bluesy urgency.

The opener, ‘St Louis Blues’, begins with a funky rhythm, plus voice and alto improvising and riffing together: she screams and he echoes her on alto and the whole exhilarating performance treats the piece very freely. ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ has Laine at her sweetest and most tender, and Dankworth’s fine clarinet solo draws applause.

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‘’T’ain’t What You Do’ is a swaggering performance with Laine and Dankworth in fiery dialogue. She also leads many instrumental passages, brilliantly utilising her remarkable four-octave-plus range. The whole album glows with artistry.