Lisanne Lyons - Smile
By Lisanne Lyons with The John Toomey Trio
Very Good Condition
Lisanne Lyons has an impressive resumé. She's lead singer for the successful Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, founded the award-winning New Virginians, is an Associate Professor of Music at Virginia Tech, and has appeared with numerous jazz luminaries. For her second CD, she joins with the John Toomey Trio for a program of mostly standards delivered with enthusiasm, exuberance, and energy, and no small amount of vocal skill. Lyons is out to garb these well-worn tunes with new contemporary clothes. No matter what she's performing, be prepared to hear it differently than it's usually played. Not that her interpretations are so far out as to make them hollow. But she tweaks the songs here and twists them there to give them a distinctive spin. "I Want to Be Happy," for example, opens with a slow piano introduction by Toomey, as Lyons rides in alternating regular lyrics with wordless vocalizing, adopting somewhat craggy rhythms along the way. Chip McNeill augments the trio on this cut with his sax. This song, as others, also gets a thorough and robust improvisational working over by the trio. The album is loaded with resourceful arrangements which put these tunes in a new light.
The usual ballad presentation of "The Touch of Your Lips" is forsaken, replaced by a swinging, scatting sonata by Lyons, followed by a hard bop solo from McNeill, with Howard Curtis' drums making anything but demure percussive statements underneath. This track will get your attention. Similarly, "I Thought About You" is a lilting excursion into challenging syncopation by Lyons, and bassist Jimmy Masters as the singer takes some phrasing liberties with this standard classic. All in all, this album offers more than 50 minutes of sparkling, scintillating jazz singing and is recommended.
"Smile," Lisanne Lyons's latest album, reminds us of the magic that can happen when the right singer, the right song and the right accompaniment fall into place. Blessed with a luminous, flutelike soprano, Lyons delivers a collection of cheery themes and dreamy ballads that seem particularly well-suited to her bright tone and improvisational flair. Beginning with Cole Porter's "I Love You," Lyons gracefully demonstrates that while all jazz vocalists may consider themselves musicians, some are far more musician-like than others. Her fluid scatting and spot-on intonation allow her to fully participate as the fourth member of the John Toomey Trio while harmonizing the melody or engaging in crisp exchanges with drummer Howard Curtis. Toomey, Curtis and bassist Jimmy Masters, who were recently in town accompanying veteran bop-bred vocalist Mark Murphy, are quick to create a nimble rapport with Lyons and are chiefly responsible for the album's fresh and often challenging arrangements.While the vintage standards, which include "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Put on a Happy Face," and "You Don't Know What Love Is," easily outclass the more recent pop tunes, even the unusually languid rendition of "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the slow and sultry reprise of "Daydream" manage to cast a romantic spell, thanks in part to guest saxophonist Chip McNeill -- Mike Joyce