Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It Seemed Like A Good Idea, (or I Told You Not to Record A Shania Twain Cover)

Mary Stallings is a very talented jazz vocalist. She worked with Count Basie in the late 60's, has recorded several fine albums in the tradition of Carmen McRae, with lots of standards. She has a new album out on Half Note Records, the record label of New York's Blue Note Jazz Club (no affiliation with Blue Note Records). It's a studio session, featuring a somewhat odd lineup, including pianist Geri Allen (co-producer), Frank Wess, Billy Hart, Vincent Herring and Geri's husband Wallace Roney. It's not a great album, but Geri's post-Herbie Hancock arrangements give it an edge that a lot of vocal albums lack. There's several misfires, as I don't think the approach and musicians ever quite click, but there's one simply colossal disaster of the kind you don't normally hear from really talented jazz musicians. Someone, (please raise your hand) decided it would be a good idea for Mary to record a cover of Nashville pop diva Shania Twain's chart topping hit "Still the One" (not the song by the band Orleans of the same name, which would have been a better choice).

Like a car wreck that's so horrible you can't take your eyes off of it, after sitting slack jawed through the first listen through this track, I had to click repeat and hear it about 10 more times. The tune is performed slower than the original, in a quasi swing Billy Hart beat that he's used quite often on Geri's records before. Geri's reharmonized the tune with her typical minimalist approach, and then had the (?)inspired(?) idea to play this dissonant synth organ part behind Mary's vocals, almost an alien pedal point (the chord does change a few times, but you get the idea). The melody of the tune does NOT lend it to a swing beat, especially the B section (the hook). Mary, who is a true pro, tries to make the best of it, but it's a flat out disaster, and I'm actually shocked it made the record. Simply horrible. There's some good stuff on this cd, so I don't want to suggest that you cross it off your list. If anything, it's worth a few listens, as a sort of musical rubbernecking.


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