Anya Malkiel's choice to commence her self-released From the Heart with Billie Holiday's masochistic Fine and Mellow was an intriguing decision, as the song is politically incorrect but psychologically intriguing and provokes the listener, be he or she philosophically inclined, to reflect on what a bizarre mess the human animal can too often be—far far far too often, y'all. Malkiel's reading is interestingly academic, which only increases the many perplexities the song invokes. Her backing band doubles up the gambit with a nightclub rendering rather than a bluesy hooch-house drawl, and then there's the strange stab at redemption in the refrain—'But if you treat me right, baby / I'll stay home all day'—incites almost a shocked alarm. That, I think, is subtle commentary all on its own, and Anya just sets it down and leaves it there for the listener's judgment.
Then Invitation mists in like a night fog, cool and airy, seductive, draping over your shoulder like a succubus, Malkiel intoning the lyrics in slidey vocables much like that cool attackless variation Jan Akkerman (Focus) had figured out on guitar. Christian Tamburr plies an instrument given FAR too little exposure in modern jazz, vibes, setting up a crystalline counterpart to the singer's silky birdsong presence. By the time Monk's Panonica arrives, sporting a magpie flute (Jim Schneider), it's obvious Malkiel has adopted a classic style, a 50s milieu, but one that reaches forward into the 60s questing towards the 70s but no further. Perfectly proper, too, as From the Heart is almost fusion but not quite, There'll Never be Another You perhaps its most progressive foray, a swingin', boppin', scattin' number that would've intrigued those listening to Nucleus, Gil Evans, etc.
Favorite cut? Forget it, there are too many of equal luster here, though I confess a weakness for Beautiful Love, and Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child is one of the best versions I've yet heard, purely for its near-a-capella (John Wiitala's bass accompaniment is even more darkly introspective than Malkiel's singing) turn-it-on-its-head daring, fusing jazz back into the blues it arose from.
Now let me render a grievance, one involving respect. No song on this CD is properly credited in the liner and only patchily in the promo lit, which the consumer never sees. This seems to be on the increase lately, and I'm sorry to pick on this CD to air my frustration, but withholding credits is not okay. I mean, how would any musician on Heart have felt had his or her name been omitted from the CD? Certainly, what occurs here is not as bad as when, say, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant steal others' work and put their own damn names on it, as in Led Zeppelin's longstanding deplorable case, but, still, how'd ya feel, y'all? I'm just sayin'. With music this well done, very well done indeed (and, seeing that the CD is a self-release, the omission is probably an inadvertency), a little conscientious respect is due.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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