Twice looking like Bette Midler's sibling in B That Way's liner shots, I guess you could say Nancy Kelly is kinda like a Midler sister who fell out of the limousine, landed beside a be-bop roadhouse, dropped in for a sip or two before the chauffeur turned around to pick her back up, got caught up in the guy playing B-3 in the corner for brooding hip catz, and decided this was what she'd been orphaned from somewhere in her Hollywood past (in Kelly's case: New York), resuming residency forthwith. The poor limo hack went home empty-handed that day, but look at what we got: a cool-ass CD full of standards delivered in a range of jazz seasonings.
Ya gotta love Bette, it's the law, but Nancy's the exact opposite of the Divine Miss. Where the former engineers big, glitzy, gaudy, overblown extravaganzas of kitsch and torchy musical dramaturgy, as much spectacle as music, perhaps more so, the latter, Ms. Kelley, is 100% song-immersed, the fifth element sitting atop a quartet of musicians laying down atmospherics for her interpretations of a boatload of good ol' familiarities. Within that setting, the last time we heard from guitarist Peter Bernstein, well proclaimed by Jim Hall, was in the Goldings / Bernstein / Stewart confab, Ramshackle Serenade (here). Here, though, he's sparely applied, the lion's share of solos going to Jerry Weldon (sax) and Dino Losito (Hammond), who alternate between flowing rhythms and tightly delivered solos, spotlight always most firmly on the singer.
Favorite cut? Damn hard to pick one. Don't Go to Strangers is perhaps the shining track, a truly moody number in which Kelly takes on the qualities of a saxophonic recital of ennui and angst, Weldon notching things up a few rungs on the real instrument after Kelly's rather stunningly inflected opening, cueing the switchover to a more impassioned outburst. I think, though, that I'll settle on Here's Looking at You for its tonier, middle-of-a-lonely-plaza inflections, lost and forlorn but still imbued with quietly subordinated vitalities. Yep, hard to choose a fave 'cause then there's Billy's Bounce, which swings like crazy and gets my feets all dis-com-bob-yew-lated, the opening track Come Back to Me also carefree and breezy, but, if you've read my work long enough, dear reader, you know my preferences: what Alan Holdsworth called "velvet darkness".
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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