Andrea Wolper opens her disc with a prefatory solo a-cappella intro to Joni Mitchell's Song to a Seagull, which slowly ushers in the backing quartet. It's a dramatic take, a landscape slowly swimming into view, a preface to the entire gig. Then her own The Girls in their Dresses follows, dancing with an almost stern-faced swing, kinda like the naughty secretary up in the front office who insists on following company rules while seducing you. Ah, but that's to the side of some very be-boppy Corea-esque piano playing. A tinkling keys solo breaks down into an Annette Peacock-esque sprechestimme vocal aside, wherein sexy secretary becomes coquette librarian, the pulse elevates, and—ahem, getting the idea here, are we?
Ms. Wolper is not your average singer-pianist-writer, as there's an almost baffling straitlacedness melding into the disciplined and experienced wanton that provides a tension of contrasts, Doris Day meeting Peggy Lee meeting Angelina or Elvira. Her reading of Who Will Buy? treads the midground between all those personalities as the band pulls some very cool arrangement interpretations from her and Ken Filiano's (bassist) charts. Wolper covers a number of standards, but I'm not sure she needs to—not that I'm griping, mind you, not at all, but rather because the woman is an intriguing composer completely in her powers, very much based in the bop school, a full spectrum analyst taking the time to be her own best arranger as well, as June Rose vividly illustrates, one of the best tunes on the album, a track guitarist Michael Howell takes the moment to drift back to elder days within, marrying trad virtues to an era in which jazz was accelerating to anticipate the future.
Her rendering of Richard Rogers' Something Good starts up like an outtake from Jack Bruce's Songs for a Tailor only to spring into sparkling vivacity amid lyrics peppered with scat heightened by a propulsive rhythm section. You can start anywhere you wish in this disc, the song order has no real relevance, and each cut is its own world. In fact, this is one of the few CDs I've ever reviewed where I'll recommend the listener intrigue him/herself and click in the Random Tracking selection process most home components have, each time making the sonic experience as fresh as possible because that's the entire vibe of Parallel Lives. A too-ordered approach would just remove that top layer of undying effervescence.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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