FAME Review: Carolyn Lee Jones - The Performer
Carolyn Lee Jones - The Performer

The Performer

Carolyn Lee Jones

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

You'd never guess that Carolyn Lee Jones, a slinky chanteuse with a truly superb singing voice, was for the longest time a corporate big wig, a highly successful buyer for luxury retail stores (that's code for Rodeo Drive level, y'all), but she was. However, she'd been a singer since age 5, took tons of lessons, and included herself in every exposition she could track down once she got to high school. She did indeed. But then adulthood loomed and Jones buckled down to capitalism and its dictates…only to, in the late 90s, realize she could now afford to return to her true love, studying and practicing for a decade until 2008, becoming not only a full-time singer but a bandleader as well. I don't think Marx foresaw that sort of thing in his ruminations.

She released Bon Appetit! that year, but why Ms. Jones waited five years to publish this, her second effort, The Performer, is a complete mystery. I mean, this is a voice you don't hear very often, not this highly polished. She also produced the CD, chose the musicians, and recruited five talented arrangers (but dominantly Brad William, who also plays keyboards), and, lord, did she choose well. Catch the instrumentalists' solos in East of the Sun after her lovely intro for just one example, a great little flurry contrasting the smooth as silk voice that comes gliding back in as they wind down. Anita O'Day is oft cited as akin to Carolyn, and I wouldn't disagree but would add Doris Day and June Christy as well. Laura Nyro and Sade are also cited and…okay, but, really, Jones' is far more a classic voice than contemporary, and she every so often gains a bit of sensual grit, which Sade's never done (not to my knowledge anyway).

As many jazz guitarists are going back to the old Green / Montgomery days for renewed material and interest, so too is The Great American Songbook undergoing a renaissance, and Jones has gathered a 14-spot of chestnuts, including some of the more modern materials by such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Franks. One of my favorites is If You Were Shakespeare, which balances perfectly between the Songbook era and the vibe of the 70s, reminding one of what Collins and Baez did when they reached backwards to Sondheim and others (and who doesn't remember Judy's Send in the Clowns?). It would be entirely appropos to catch Jones on stage at a posh showcase bedecked with brocade and teak in Beverly Hills, wowing the cognoscenti, and thus, ironically, she's come full circle from her erstwhile profession in just about the best way imaginable.

Track List:

  • Small Day Tomorrow (Landesman / Dorough)
  • East of the Sun (B. Bowman)
  • The Performer (Kaswell / Vance)
  • Creepin' (Stevie Wonder)
  • Nearness of You (Carmichael / Washington)
  • If You Were Shakespeare (Jean-Marc Charron)
  • I Wished On the Moon (Parker / Ranger)
  • Let's Get Lost (Loesser / McHugh)
  • Piano in the Dark (Cutler / Hull / Russell)
  • Old Devil Moon (Harburg / Lane)
  • Never Let Me Go (Livingston / Evans)
  • Tell Me All About It (Michael Franks)
  • Lazy Afternoon (Moss / La Touche)
  • The Island (Bergmen / Bergmen / Martins / Lins)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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