1. Fragile – Sting – 7:05
2. A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening – Harold Adamson/Jimmy McHugh – 5:16
3. We’re All in The Dance – Will Jennings/Christophe Monthieux – 5:11
4. Devil May Care – Bob Dorough/Terrell P. Kirk Jr. – 6:46
5. Two for The Road – Leslie Bricusse/Henry Mancini – 5:42
6. Drown in My Own Tears – Henry Glover – 4:58
7. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was – Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers – 6:06
8. Tell Me A Bedtime Story – Tom Lellis/Herbie Hancock – 6:05
9. Dexterity – Charlie Parker – 6:01
10. Reflections (Looking Back) – Jon Hendricks/Thelonious Monk – 5:16
There’s no mistaking the message of “We’re All in The Dance,” the title track of singer Rachel Caswell’s latest album. It’s a lovely waltz that pairs the dance of life with the dance of music and somehow, through her purity of tone, intelligent phrasing, and flowing time feel, Caswell—cosigned by an ascendant solo by her younger sister, Grammy-nominated violinist Sara Caswell—navigates an alternate, bespoke pathway through a song whose simplicity and elegance pose a challenge to a singer steeped in the complexities of jazz expression.
She addresses the subject of love head-on throughout the proceedings, comprising ten songs culled from a long timeline and a panoply of stylistic genres. Caswell tells each story with equivalent levels of individualism and interpretive mojo, imparting a continuity and identity from the first track (an inflamed, incantatory reading of Sting’s “Fragile”) to the last (a mesmerizing meditation on Jon Hendricks’ bittersweet-yet-optimistic lyric to Thelonious Monk’s “Reflections”).
Along the way, Caswell puts deep blues inflections on “Drown in My Own Tears,” the Ray Charles classic, followed by a soulful guitar declamation by master blues practitioner—and album producer—Dave Stryker. She channels her inner Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan on “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” eschewing a balladic approach for a well-wrought, lightly swinging delivery of the lyric. She renders the late Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care” with apropos vertiginous flair, developing her rhythmic ideas on an instrument-like improvisation. She applies a spacious Latin feel to Henry Mancini’s “Two for The Road,” and showcases her broad registral range and deep pocket in conveying Tom Lellis’ evocative lyrics to Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me A Bedtime Story.” Dave Stryker’s arrangement of Rodgers & Hart’s American Songbook classic “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” plays on the title, shifting odd meters with finger-popping swing. And Rachel scats the melody of Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity” with an idiomatic bebop feel, giving her A-list partners full autonomy to play it in their manner and responding to their postulations with a pithy scat.
Another of the record’s great pleasures is an opportunity to hear how deftly each world-class member of the kinetic rhythm section locks into their task of reimagining and reconfiguring “standards.” Hopefully, Stryker’s imprimatur and this cutting-edge band will induce gatekeepers from radio and the press to listen closely to this superb album. If they do, and respond accordingly, Caswell may be moving to another level of visibility in the not so distant future.
Edited from liner notes by Ted Panken
“Rachel Caswell is that rara avis who is truly a jazz vocalist. Her intonation is impeccable, her diction precise, her jazz sensibilities above reproach, and she swings like mad!…Few
improvisers – vocal or instrumental – have better ears than she possesses and she has an exceptional instrument that is immediately identifiable among a sea of other vocalists.”
David Baker, NEA Jazz Master & jazz education pioneer
AVAILABLE FROM: CDBaby / Amazon / iTunes