The music of the great American Songbook, when given a personal touch, never ceases to charm and delight. Toronto-born pianist David Ian has arranged these 11 pieces—classics of the standard repertoire, except for the gospel tune Sweet By and By—into smooth, easy listening yet spirited and fresh-sounding pieces, ideal for a candlelight dinner at home, or a late-night cuddle.
Five feature different vocalists, each with their own sound and texture, on My Funny Valentine, Solitude, Young and Foolish, Summertime and Sweet By and By.
I have heard these songs with and without lyrics, and can tell you this album brings something fresh and delightful, a reminder of the legacy produced in the last century by the composers and the musicians who made them immortal.
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There have been songs about Montreal, but this exquisite record is the first I know that celebrates the city in words and music in such a complete way. It’s the city of its smaller parts—alleyways, corner stores, restaurants where they know your name. It is our city, heart and soul, beautifully drawn in these 14 compositions.
They are built around the rich tapestry of humble yet poignant elements immortalized in the works of Richler, Michel Tremblay, Leonard Cohen and Gabrielle Roy, and come together in the music and lyrics of guitarist Mike Rud. They are delivered with subtlety, pristine clarity and tenderness by vocalist Sienna Dahlen, backed by a fine band and string quartet, arranged by Rud.
The music can be loosely qualified as jazz. It is easy to listen to, in a variety of styles and tempi, bright and flowing. Alberta ex-pat Rud pours out the love in these odes to the city’s older districts from St. Laurent to St. Denis, up to Jean Talon market. It opens with Smoked Meat and the Main, a bittersweet slice of Barney’s Version, followed by a bluesy testimonial to the 55 Streetcar (Michel Tremblay), and the tango rhythm of Florentine, inspired by the main character from Roy’s The Tin Flute, with the string quartet blending seamlessly with band and Rud’s guitar runs. And it just gets better.
The piano trio remains the essential jazz unit and American pianist Ben Paterson is true to the tradition. In this mix of eight gems written by a variety of composers and five originals, he covers a broad thematic and rhythmic range. We hear melody, soul and passion, delivered with a delightful bounce, right in sync with bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Jon Deitemeyer.
The album may not be breaking any new ground, but the delivery and spirit inherent in every piece are first-rate. Peterson roams skillfully over the varied rhythms of Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady, captures the wonderment in Lennon and McCartney’s Here, There, and Everywhere, makes I’ve Never Been in Love Before (Frank Loesser) dance, draws out the bluesy notes of Ray Charles’ Hard Times, and fills You’re My Everything with joy.