You probably didn't know it, but the words to quite a few extremely well-known standards—including Girl from Ipanema, the second most covered song on planet Earth (the Beatles' Yesterday occupies the top slot)—were written by Norman Gimbel, a gent who's gone mostly unheralded in the public at large but is very well known in the industry. He worked with materials penned by Bonfa, Jobim, LeGrand, Thielemans, and a very impressive roster, earning a number of Grammies and Oscars in the process. Had he not done so, the chances are very good that the songs, originally instrumentals, would never have enjoyed anywhere the universal esteem they presently do.
Connie Evingson was born in Bob Dylan's home town of Hibbing, Minnesota, and looks like she could be Joni Mitchell's sister, but her dad's jazz collection left a permanent impression in her mind, and so her 9 CDs have been based in tributes to Peggy Lee, Django Reinhardt, Dave Frishberg, then the Beatles (and, man, you should hear how she transforms those cats!) and others. Jazz is her true love, though, and this is the first such tribute to Gimbel as far as I know. Everyone and everything is well served in Sweet Happy Life, very well indeed.
Her ensembles certainly aren't in any way wanting. Ranging from quartets to nonets, the players are well chosen, Laura Caviani's and Tanner Taylor's pianos particularly toothsome, the latter hitting a bolero/tango vibe in Sway. They carry off each cut beautifully, Evingson singing in a clear sweet melodious voice flowing above the instruments. Rather than be-bop with the basic bossa environment, she chose to maintain a smooth stream of cooling mellow swing punctuated by various emphasis shifts: tempo, volume, note fluctuation, etc. Pay close attention to the Ipanema passage where the melody follows form, hits "When she passes, he smiles" for the first time, and then collapses in a subtly exasperated monotonic "But she doesn't see" rich with tart emotion close to frustration but held in check. That sort of knowing nuance is what we listen to such singers for, and there's plenty more here where that came from. Breezy, worthy of a late afternoon spent with cognac and warm terra cotta 'neath feet and sandals, there are nonetheless more energetic interludes and then a particularly melancholy Insensitive. You'll smile at the hedonistic languor, the sense of Arcadian freedom, and the intimations of eros in Sweet Happy Life, but you'll also sigh more than once.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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