Monday, May 08, 2017

Sarah McKenzie Paris in the Rain

Sarah McKenzie
Paris in the Rain
Impulse! Records

Born in Australia, schooled at Berklee and recently moved to Paris, pianist-singer-songwriter and arranger will delight listeners on this new release, her second for Impulse! Records. The backing musicians include vibraphonist Warren Wolf, guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, flutist Jamie Baum, alto saxophonist Scott Robinson, tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, and guitarist Romero Lubambo in various combinations. While the press materials suggest this album be viewed as sort of a travelogue with performances including her original title track, Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's "When in Rome," and her closing "Road Chops," the pleasures of this recording do not depend on such thematic considerations.

What is evident from the opening "Tea For Two," is the clarity and freshness of her arrangement provides as well as her lyrical piano and her delightful vocals on a bright, breezy performance. The horns sit out the title track, a celebration of the city of lights with her wonderful singing in French and English. Her vocals standout with her clean articulation, sense of timing, and her nuanced phrasing whether singing in an intimate or coquettish fashion. On the bluesy "One Jealous Moon," Ralph Moore takes a strong tenor solo and then at the close exchanges fours with McKenzie.

The moody Rogers and Hart ballad "Little Girl Blue," is followed by the perky rendition of Kern & Mercer's "I'm Old Fashioned," with a choice Scott Robinson solo. A rendition of Jobim's "Trieste," with Romero Lubambo's guitar, lovely flute from Baum and some jaunty scatting, is followed by an enchanting "Embraceable You," with McKenzie's lovely vocal backed only by Whitfield's guitar played in a spare manner. Kenny Rankin's "In the Name of Love," is another lively Brazilian flavored performance with Lubambo taking a solo against the nicely laid down rhythm, followed by a pensive rendition of her ballad, "Don't Be a Fool" with some lovely vibes by Wolf accompanying the vocal as well as in his solo.

A spirited instrumental "Road Chops," with controlled fire from Farinacci and Moore before McKenzie takes a blues-inflected solo closes this recording in a wonderful fashion. Sarah McKenzie impresses with this lyrical and enchanting performances on a terrific album.

I received  a download for review from a publicist. Here is a video for "Paris in the Rain."

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