This album is a sheer joy to listen to from the first note. This may be Jacintha's best album yet. The silky, smooth, and sensuous voice of Jacintha is reproduced with an utterly natural quality, revealing every nuance of her phenomenal intonation, phrasing, breath control, and vocal modulation. On several cuts she is paired with saxophonist Harry Allen, who, along with Sonny Rollins, is one of my favorite living sax players. Jacintha's voice floats between the speakers in a truly palpable fashion, and if there is a microphone signature imparted to her voice, I sure can't detect it. The soundstage is wide open, and the instrumentalists are right there, with a relaxed sense of ease that imparts a distinctively life-like quality to the recording.
Ying Tan continues to do a consistently outstanding job with his Groove Note releases, and Joe Harley's production is impeccable. Ying's best releases fly in the face of the old rule that states that "The better the sound, the worse the performance [or music], and vice versa." A large number of Groove Note releases are now obvious exceptions to this "rule," and new examples keep coming out.
This album is dedicated to Julie London, and in the liner notes the inestimable Robert E. Greene goes into some detail on why she was so influential, and how her songs are deserving of reinterpretation by a singer of Jacintha's capabilities, and of being recorded in state-of-the-art sound. The result is, to this listener, simply mesmerizing.
Jacintha injects a world of emotion into Willow Weep For Me, and the accompanying tenor sax work of Harry Allen is second to none. Jacintha's sultry voice heats up Something Cool, a fifties staple that is given a new interpretation here. Don't Smoke In Bed is suitably wistful. The classic Cry Me A River is sung with conviction and feeling. And so on.
My hat's off to Ying Tan, Joe Harley, Harry Allen, Bill Cunliffe, Bernie Grundman, and everyone else who made this recording a reality. It's a knockout, and it deserves my highest recommendation. Please support Ying Tan and colleagues and buy it. They merit your support. It doesn't get much better than this.
How does one improve on the already wonderful? That was the question I posed to myself upon receipt of Groove Note’s Jacintha Is Her Name -- A Tribute to Julie London. I asked myself that because, based on all the musical and sonic enjoyment I’d received from Jacintha’s previous efforts -- Here’s To Ben, Autumn Leaves, and Lush Life -- might this latest effort turn out to be something of a let down? After all, how many times can an artist continue to improve, as Jacintha has done? I mean, sooner or later she’ll have to come up short of the abnormally high standards she’s set for herself, right? Wrong.
With Jacintha Is Her Name, she has not only hit the target again, she’s scored another bull’s-eye in the process, with each succeeding album coming closer and closer to dead center. And if she weren’t so darned talented, it could almost become monotonous. But when you combine Groove Note Records’ superb sonics with Jacintha’s ability to deliver a song in a manner that suggests each number was written just for her, the listener is held spellbound by the total beauty of the result.
Jacintha Is Her Name takes Jacintha a step beyond her other albums due to the expansion of her repertoire beyond the songs of the Great American Songbook that have been the building blocks of those earlier records. The songbook is still well represented here, but to it Jacintha adds the unexpected -- The Doors’ "Light My Fire" -- as well as jazz vocal standards, such as the Billie Holiday staple "God Bless the Child," and the Thelonious Monk classic "Round Midnight." These songs in particular allow us a better insight into just how good a singer Jacintha has become. They also let us see how much of a debt she owes both to Julie London, in whose honor the album is dedicated, and to Ella Fitzgerald, in the manner she delivers these songs (said debts are more than repaid here). With backing from Bill Cunliffe on piano, Harry Allen on tenor sax (he replaces the late Red Holloway in Groove Note’s house band), Ron Eschete on seven-string guitar, Larry Bunker on vibes and congas, Holly Hoffman on flute, Darek Oleskiewicz on bass and Larance Marable on drums, the total-enjoyment factor gets ratcheted up a few more notches.
As is the custom with a Groove Note production, the sound is excellent. Producer Joe Harley, engineer Michael C. Ross, and mastering maven Bernie Grundman use all their considerable experience and talent to nail the sound just about perfectly. Instead of using all the musicians on each number, Harley uses them in varied combinations of three, thereby allowing Jacintha’s voice room to really shine. The Stereo DSD tracks take the already excellent sound and bumps it up considerably higher -- fleshing out both the vocals and instrumental tones, and also adding to the sense of recording acoustic that you’ll notice is lacking on the CD (especially once you’ve heard that it’s there). The Multichannel DSD mix is done with both taste and restraint. The rear channels are used simply for acoustic enhancement. There’s no center-of-the-band sensation here. The result, on whatever level you chose to listen, is a sonic pacesetter.
Just as does a bottle of fine Bordeaux wine, Jacintha continues to improve with the passage of time. Each succeeding album surpasses the standards set by its predecessor. On Jacintha Is Her Name, Jacintha adds to her repertoire and, by taking advantage of the minimal musical backing, demonstrates the full range of her considerable abilities. Combine these facets with the superb sonics, and this album becomes a tasty musical treat, one that will you will be savoring over and over again. About the only negative I can think of in regard to this album, even as I sit entranced by this latest effort, is that I’m already looking forward to the next recording, to see if Jacintha can continue to surpass herself yet again. What a delicious dilemma.