Rebecca Ferguson, 3 records into her belated solo career, has determined to gamble all of her hard-won credibility upon this thoughtful love letter to Billie Holliday and Great American Songbook. While setting out to record her song Lady Sings the Blues, the double-albums’ worth of Tin Pan Alley’s standards which includes venerable songs such as “All Of Me,” “Don’t Explain,” “That Ole Devil Called Love,” and “Embraceable You,” there may be no doubt that Rebecca deliberately has set herself a hill to climb. Because after all, it was no one other than Frank Sinatra alone who credited Lady Day with being the one who was “his greatest musical influence”. The truth that she easily scales those dizzying heights upon Lady Sings the Blues, cannot help but take a persons’ breath away!
The record, which was recorded inside LA’s Capitol Studios, starts with present song, “Get Happy”, a skittish rendition on the composition of the Cotton Club’s back then in-house song writers, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, yet actually reaches its stride with a finger-snapping, sassy edition of “Fine and Mellow” and “Embraceable You” a silky reading by the Gershwin brothers. The high quality is sustained with a creative re-working of Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen’s jazzy standard “I Thought about You” the re-telling of “Willow Weep for Me” as well as a breezy edition of Koehler & Arlen’s largest hit song, “Stormy Weather”. The knock out performance keep coming, and Ferguson is bemused and vexed on her perfectly pitched “What’s this thing called Love”, and doleful and downbeat on her fatalistic “Lover Man”.
A massive amount of credit for the sumptuous recording has to go to Troy Miller, conductor/arranger/producer and percussionist. Miller’s resume takes a little beating – he has worked with Donna Summer, Amy Winehouse, and Adele, among others, and presently is making a crust as Laura Mvula’s music director. Miller’s decorous arrangements are vibrantly brought to life by a combo of vet sidemen, which feature the present director of Count Basie Orchestra, Scott Barnhart on the Trumpet, Ricky Woodward on the Tenor Saxophone, Chuck Berghofer on bass, as well as Barbra Streisand’s accompanist Tamir Hendelman on the piano.
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