Beyond the Blue

Since the invention of sound recording, producers have sought ways to differentiate their offerings from the rest. (See Lawrence Welk’s 1966 encounter with Duke Ellington’s peerless alto saxophonist, Johnny Hodges. You get the idea.) Here, however, we have a majestic pairing that mostly satisfies: the London-born Anglo-Trinidadian jazz vocalist Tessa Souter in a program of classical melodies in which she explores the “shadows and light of love and intimacy.” Accompanied by pianist Steve Kuhn’s trio (and guests), Souter works her magic on such items as Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante défunte”—better known as the 1930’s standard, “The Lamp Is Low”—with some tasty vibraphone work by Joe Locke. Borodin’s “String Quartet in D, Movement 2,” aka “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” gets a straight-ahead treatment, while the title track is her haunting interpretation of Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor,” which, like nine of the other dozen tracks, features her fascinating lyrics. “Brand New Day” (a lively reworking of Fauré’s “Elegy”) also has great solos by Locke and accordionist Gary Versace. Tenorman Joel Frahm livens up several songs, especially “Sunrise,” Souter’s take on a Brahms symphony. While I applaud the challenges she poses I’m not as thrilled with her brittle delivery.