There are very few singers I can name who can fashion their delivery so that the result makes instrumentalists take a step back: Marvin Gaye of course was one, Chris Farlowe another, and there were a few more here and there, but no one quite matched Kenny Rankin on his quasi-obscure gem Silver Morning, an LP that still takes my breath away. Thisbe Vos now joins the serried ranks, and I think the fact that she not only wrote the lioness' share of songs here but also produced the CD goes a very long way in illustration of just how unique her thinking and performances are. In other hands, much would have been lost, as, unlike most self-producers, Vos never plays to the safe side of things but constantly unearths subtleties.
However, she does all that under a very traditional rubric and sound beautifully underscored by Gary Matsumoto's direction and translucent piano playing. Stepping into the umbrella, Jim McMillen arranges the Pasadena String Orchestra for two gently mouthwatering sensualist cuts, Round Midnight and Under Your Spell. Throughout the rest of the repertoire, an array of refined sessioneers flank the singer and pianist and bounce back and forth between modernist and 20s airs, Geoff Nudell's clarinets particularly period-vivacious, Henry Franklin's walking stand-up bass occupying the midground with beatnik lines. Matsumoto, however, dominates in a refined manner, centering everything in ivory.
Thankfully, Vos gave Shanghai Blues the lead slot, because it's this song that most vividly accents what she's more than adept at. In many ways, it's the most radical cut, neon night be-boppy but also sweet and seductive while surprising in her voice's envelope characteristics. Here, it's readily seen, is where she adroitly announces her distinctiveness, makes her mark. After hearing Shanghai, the listener knows exactly what to listen for and is well rewarded for the heads-up. More, her way with lyrics and melodies is purest Tin Pan Alley / Great American Songbook…BUT with a true jazz singer's idiosyncrasies within the rule book. And so you have the second most striking trait: Vos isn't just honoring the grand tradition, she's furthering it in a way the pantheon itself would applaud.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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