"Sophie Milman is a velvety singer who sounds so completely comfortable luxuriating in the melodies of George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. Regardless of which composer she's interpreting, Milman's intimate yet muscular vocal delivery makes every track shine on her fourth CD. This gifted vocalist is consistently convincing, whether she's joyously elongating the vowel sounds in 'Till There Was You' or providing a dramatic, accordion-fueled, French-language reading of 'Ces Petits Riens'...This gem of a CD is definitely a keeper." ~ Bobby Reed, DownBeat ~
"Milman jumps to the front of the post-Krall pack of jazz singers." ~ JazzTimes ~
April is National Jazz Appreciation Month, and naturally I'm reviewing a lovely jazz album as my first review of the month. And I hope to review more jazz albums for the rest of this month in celebration of this music genre. To my fellow jazz enthusiasts, please join in the celebration by giving your support and appreciation to the singers, musicians who keep this art form alive and kicking. Many thanks!
Sophie Milman's latest and fourth album, "In The Moolight," is Number Six (out of 11) on DownBeat's Editors' Picks for January 2012. With each album that she recorded--from her debut, self-titled, Sophie Milman, Make Someone Happy, Take Love Easy to this latest offering--she is elegantly evolving into a remarkable jazz singer whose presence in the jazz world is widely felt not only by jazz critics but jazz enthusiasts and listeners as well. All her recordings are notably well-executed and I so enjoy listening to all her CDs but I believe this is her very best considering everything that makes this album uniquely superlative. Unlike her first three projects, the sessions for this album were recorded in New York City. Producer Matt Pierson selected a roster of musicians that are included in DownBeat's 59th Annual International Critics Poll--arranger Gil Goldstein, saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Lewis Nash for "Established Talent" category; pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Larry Grenadier and guitarist Julian Lage for "Rising Star" category.
This album also prides itself with seasoned musicians, among them are Randy Brecker (flugelhorn), Romero Lubambo (guitar), Alan Broadbent (arranger), Rob Mounsey (arranger), Kevin Hays (arranger, piano), Gregoire Maret (harmonica) and Bashiri Johnson (percussion). These uber talented instrumentalists are supported by an orchestra on some tracks where you could hear the beautiful backdrop of strings and woodwinds played by some of the best orchestra personnel in the jazz world.
With the above-mentioned musicians, Sophie Milman is in extremely good hands. The Award-winning singer is absolutely attuned in interpreting 13 impressive songs either in a mellow mood or in an upbeat way. She's at her animated self and sitting on top of the world singing "No More Blues" with the sprightliest arrangement by DownBeat's Rising Star, Gerald Clayton. Her most jubilant emotion radiates as she's saying goodbye to the bluest of all blues. It is infectious and engaging. Focus your ears on that sparkling harmonica solo.
Another DownBeat's Rising Star, Julian Lage, penned the innovative, dazzling arrangement of "Speak Low." Milman and the quartet (Lage, Grenadier, Nash, Johnson) render this track distinctively special with a salient guitar solo that is so charming. Did I hear her scatting snippets of "Waters of March" as the music fades?
Alan Broadbent's arrangements have not disappointed this music lover yet--I've always loved his exquisite arrangements. His gorgeous orchestral charts for "Prelude To A Kiss," "Detour Ahead" and "Day Dream" are executed to a spotless perfection that showcases Milman's vocal artistry to the fullest.
In the same arena of excellence in arranging, there is another brilliant name--Rob Mounsey who sublimely, tastefully arranged "Moonlight" and "Watch What Happens" which utilizes a string orchestra in addition to the regular band. "Ces Petits Riens" is a nice song that shows Milman's adeptness in singing in French (like she did in her debut album when she sang "La Vie En Rose" flawlessly). This cut was arranged by Goldstein who played accordion that evokes typical Parisian ambiance. He duplicated his arranging expertise and flair in accordion in one of the best versions of "Till There Was You" which the singer delivers charismatically. The novelty of that sound of accordion is so pleasing to the ears and it will never wear off.
Another one of the best from the bunch is the bubbly "Let Me Love You" arranged by Kevin Hays, which Milman sings in a fabulous swinging fashion with the backing of Hays on piano, Lage on guitar, Grenadier on acoustic bass and Nash on drums.
This is a glowing album that deserves to be in your jazz music collection.
"I hope you will listen to this album with someone you love, or at least think about someone you love while listening. Relax and revel in the romantic allure of these songs. Written by some of the greatest songwriters who have ever lived--Gershwin, Ellington, Legrand, the Bergmans and yes, Feist--they have been the perfect vehicle for me to express the way I feel about music, life and love." ~ Sophie Milman ~