HighEnd Germany News
"Superb, the voice, the band, the recording!"
Lauren White is a new name to me, but if this album is any indication we’ll all be hearing a lot more from her. She bears more than a passing physical resemblance to Norah Jones, but her music isn't anything like that of Jones, and she doesn’t sing like her either.
She takes songs from such diverse sources as the Great American Songbook, her own original songs -- she has three such here -- and an eclectic mixture of popular material such as Roy Orbison’s "Blue Bayou," Leon Russell’s "Superstar," and Lee Ann Womack’s "Why They Call It Falling" in putting together the program for this album.
The caliber of musicians used to back her is as stellar as the material. Pianists Bill Cunliffe and Brian Piper, guitarist Anthony Wilson, tenor saxophonist Ricky Woodward, bassist Chuck Berghofer, Hammond B-3 organist Joe Bagg, and drummer Mark Forber make sure that the playing is as strong as the vocals.
This is a release put together by Groove Note’s house unit of producer Joe Harley and engineer Michael Ross, so you just know it’s going to sound good. Hartley and Ross have some of the best instincts and ears in the music industry, and they don’t fail them here. White’s voice is as realistic-sounding as I’ve ever heard. It’s full, rich, well delineated and three-dimensional. You can hear every inflection, and you get a superb sense of the interplay between the singer and band. As with Ms. White’s voice, the instruments are all clearly rendered with excellent timbre and tonality. At Last is a winner from the team of Harley, Ross and Groove Note.
All About Jazz -
Musical suspicions are immediately raised when jazz singer Lauren White is described as a cross between Linda Ronstadt and Norah Jones. White is a twenty year-old native of Grapevine, Texas; a child prodigy singer from age four. She did, indeed, study with the same vocal coach as Jones, but the latter has little of White's smoky and seductive vocal assets as a jazz chanteuse. White performs Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou"—which was one of Ronstadt's biggest hits—on At Last, and even sings it in a similar manner, Still, her demeanor is significantly more low-key, avoiding the range of "Blue Bayou on the rest of the album.
Now for the good news. This is one impressive debut session. The set list research factor alone shows that roughly half of this album will be unfamiliar material to most listeners. Beginning as a slinky seductress in an after-hours boite on Ira Gershwin's "My One and Only," White follows it up with her original "All I Do Is Cry" in a very similar mode. A jolt of familiarity follows with "Blue Bayou," but then she provides a poignant original, Do You Remember." In order to please the masses, Kurt Weill's world-famous "Mack The Knife" follows. Although delivered in the standard swing format, drummer Mark Ferber makes it interesting with an Ahmad Jamal "Poinciana -type pattern.
White takes a chance on the Cole Porter classic "Love For Sale," beginning with the spooky verse, and when the familiar melody sets in, it is played for the storytelling of a "woman of the streets." Over the past few decades, it seems that too few vocalists have presented the song in the style or tempo that Ella Fitzgerald did on her Cole Porter Songbook (Verve, 1956). Guitarist Anthony Wilson, who also did the arrangement, gets in some fine blues licks on his solo, as does the appropriate use of Joe Bagg's Hammond B-3 organ.
White sings Rodgers & Hart's "My Funny Valentine"—a tune which should be given a temporary rest. Her version is ameliorated, however, by Ricky Woodward's gutsy tenor sax solo. Country singer Lee Ann Womack's Why They Call It Falling" is an unexpected treat; a lighthearted look at love on which Norah Jones could also have done a fine job.
With the appetite-whetting At Last, the only question is: what's next?