Commencing in a sexed-up, adolescent, sex kittenís yearning croon, singer Tokeli demonstrates her unique virtues and versatility straight off the bat, in a Cole Porter gem, Love for Sale. The tawny alley cat matures rapidly during the first few stanzas and, in the middle eight, is scatting like a vet, transforming a streetwise Rickie Lee into Ella. Tokeliís backing band is as tight as a magnum of champagne reveling under languid pressure, Gilbert Castellanos blowing a boozy and slightly sassed-out trumpet astride Ed Kornhauserís Brubeck-cum-Guaraldi keys.
Throughout this CD spreads a well-chosen potpourri of standards, not all of them as familiar as most such anthologies tend towards, and thatís a very good thing as well. Lori Tritel wrote the two original cuts on the disc, and the listener is exposed to the first one on the sophomore track, Someday, a song which heavily invests Tokeliís affinities for silky samba. Guitarist Peter Sprague unfolds a wealth of gorgeous stylings on an acoustic, sounds fit to plunk down on any Bonfa or Gil LP, sumptuous and golden, shimmering with south of the border playas on a balmy summerís eve. The song in all its respects, though, is overwhelming evidence of not only Tokeliís powers with that mellifluously erotic voice, but also of Tritelís gifts and, given just this single offering, her compositional prowess is a force to be reckoned with.
Itís also in Someday that Tokeliís antecedents start tumbling out: Lani Hall, Astrud Gilberto, a little June Christy, Basia, Flora Purim, a touch of Rickie Lee Jones, and so on. No Sade, Randy Crawford, or Linda Ronstadt, as estimable as those chanteuses are, but rather the sidestream of jazz-oriented songbirds favoring smokier atmospheres. Even in the jumped-up be-bop version of Time Goes By, with Sprague again astonishing in lightning runs a la Larry Coryell and Martin Taylor, she maintains a hotly simmering sweetness, the pace of the tune making her trademark breathlessness all the more believable.
The fourth cut showcases Tritelís other original, Iím So Relieved, and I swear on a stack of Bibles that this woman is going to write at least several standards in her career. The lyrics, carried perfectly by the singer, are clever and cynical, world weary and just a bit pissed off, ending in happily resigned redemption and a sigh, the newly warmed corner where reality meets romance. It leads into Desafinado sung in the original tongue, with barely a regret if you donít speak the language: Tokeliís voice operates just as finely as a sparklingly honeyed instrument. Mark Leightonís easy but well-inflected bass is crucial here, providing fat-bottomed notes to offset the airy upper register, balancing the song perfectly.
The interpretational frame returns in another amped-up take, this time Koehler & Arlenís Iíve Got the World on a String, with Sprague damn near bluegrassing, pulsey with jitterbug caffeinated bars and measures. Kornhauser cuts in and slip-slides his lines in slurred tempo truncations and inversions, putting the sweat back on the guitarist. Throughout, Tokeli (who possesses no surname, by the way) loses none of her charm while rapid-fire bippity-bopping the lyrics, clipping or expanding syllables to suit, albeit in a poeticism nicely hopping in dexedrinic delivery. The most outside cut of the entire menu, however, is an almost proggy cover of My Romance, boasting an extremely attractive bass ostinato which becomes the true motif.
That this is a debut release is almost too much to believe. Every aspect stands with the best the industry can offer. If Tokeli isnít signed immediately, that alone will be a sign of the End Of Days and portents of mass insanity....which, aptly enough, her music is the perfect antidote for. So, sit back, grab a cognac, and let the sensuous and evocative music of Tokeli wash over you. If youíre not wistfully smiling by the time the CD clicks off, you might just need a check-up from the neck up.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles