on October 7, 2007
She may be not as popular as in U.K (where they consider her a British... "possession" ), but the American-born singer always delivers with style.
A recent addition to the Blue Note roster of recording artists, now Stacey Kent boasts in U.K. six best-selling albums, a string of awards, including the 2001 British Jazz Award and 2002 BBC Jazz Award "Best Vocalist", the 2004 Backstage Bistro Award and the 2006 Album of the Year for "The Lyric" as well as a fan base that enables her to sell out concert halls around the world.
Her latest album "Breakfast On a Morning Tram" includes a mixture of classic standards as well as new songs written and produced by her husband and saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson, and has on her team a surprise star writer (award-winning novelist) Kazuo Ishiguro, who supplies four angular lyrics on her Blue Note debut.
"She conveys the sense of a person talking to herself". Ishiguro wrote, "the faltering hesitancies, the exuberant rushes of inner thought".
It probably would have been easy for the expat American to continue ploughing a comfortable swing-revivalist furrow.
For the past 10 years, she has been mainly singing numbers form the great American Songbooks. However, on this CD, she sings lesser known beautiful songs (a folksily soulful "Landslide" - from Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks), a couple of Serge Gainsbourg romances delivered in French ( "Ces petits riens" and "La saison des Pluies"') , another pearl of a song, the elegant bossa nova "Samba Savarah", also delicately sung in French and three numbers from the Songbook, a bluesily swinging "Hard Hearted Hannah", "Never let me go" and and an account of "What a Wonderful World" as a wondering whisper.
She did sing Bacharach, Paul Simon and Carole Kind in her previous wonderful album "The Boy Next Door", but this CD has a fresher approach.
Full marks to her, then, for having the courage to take this new departure, a collection of songs that occasionally tilts in the direction of Norah Jones, another artist who has made the most of a narrow vocal range.
Kent's light, girlish voice and avoidance of dynamic or emotional extremes is applied here to a wider range of material than the Broadway standards that made her name.
Kent can get a hard time from the cognoscenti for her dinner-jazzy Latin shuffles and faintly coy delivery, and there are certainly times on her albums where you wish John Zorn might crash in.
But the shift from dark, low sounds to edgier ascending pleas is genuinely affecting on "Never Let Me Go"; John Parricelli's guitar is a delight, and Jim Tomlinson's soft sax is as supportive as ever; and Kent's timing and care with lyrics shows how much she cares about this fragile world of almost-jazz.
Stacey sounds understandably self-conscious on some of the modern material, but the lissom guitar-based arrangements leave you eager to hear where the next step will take her.
"Her voice is sometimes a whisper, sometimes a confiding murmur, sometimes an exhilarated exclamation; but whatever the idiom or the mood, individual listeners frequently feel that Stacey's music was intended for their ears only". - John Fordham, Guardian Jazz Critic.