"The Lyric," newest release of British tenor saxophone man Jim Tomlinson, advertises that it "features" his wife, Anglo-American jazz chanteuse Stacey Kent. However, she's surely more a co-star: we hear her lovely voice on all but two of the album's tracks.
Tomlinson has credited Stan Getz as a formative musical influence, and the album, although it draws heavily from the Great American songbook, and Broadway, to some degree also follows Getz down South America way. Furthermore, it's a reminder of the musical partnership of Getz and Astrud Gilberto -- the tenor sax is close to the human voice in its range; and the Tomlinson/Kent collaborations are almost mystically, mutually interwoven.
The album, which has won "Best Vocal Album" at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Awards, and 2006 "Album of the Year" at the prestigious British Broadcasting Company's Jazz Awards, is Tomlinson's first release on his own label, Token. It takes a fresh approach to its standards, even such familiar ones as Rogers and Hammerstein's "Surrey With The Fringe on Top," and Lerner and Loewe's "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face." We also get a selection of French tunes, delivered by Kent as though she'd been born in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Cole Porter's knowing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," gets a clean rendition, no winks or nods. Kent has a modern, conversational, intimately whispering style well-suited to this repertory, and Tomlinson's sax always has a story to tell. The band consists of David Newton on piano, Dave Chamberlain on double bass, and Matt Skelton on drums.
I've been lucky enough to catch Kent and Tomlinson at New York's famous Algonquin Hotel. There's no question, they're working in the here and now. Still their collaborative style of music making is reminiscent of the great Lester Young and Billie Holiday, or even, to cite a contemporary, perhaps better known to Americans duo, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. They make beautiful music together.