Trudy Kerr's album Contemplation, released a few months ago, is a fantastic compilation of her favourite tracks from an impressive catalogue of ten different recordings with a practical 'who's who' of British Jazz in her lineups including her husband Geoff Gascoyne, Seb de Krom, Tom Cawley, Dick Pearce, Jim Mullen, Martin Shaw, Derek Nash and Andy Panayi and more.
You wouldn't notice that these beautiful, fluid songs are in fact from a multitude of times and phases, as Trudy's wonderfully flexible, consistently warm sound hasn't changed a bit from album to album, and the songs fit wonderfully together.
A melancholy, reflective mood is set with the first track, Glad to Be Unhappy, from her album Daydream with American pianist Mulgrew Miller, before the mood is lifted with a great version of Tea for Two, with a tight, swinging tutti solo, celebrating the music of Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan, originally from the album My Old Flame. Her treatment of standards is as fresh as the original numbers on the album. Extracted from the recent album The Rhythm of Life (with husband and collaborator Geoff Gascoyne) come two songs, the beautiful and flowing original Poppies, as well as the lyrically poignant Save Me, which whilst maintaining a relaxed feel, delivers a captivating message of the trials and tribulations of love.
It can prove challenging to introduce strings to a jazz recording, but They Say It’s Wonderful is mixed eloquently and flows perfectly with the other songs on the album, bringing the listener back to the contemplative, ever-so-slightly-bittersweet feel of the album, the sound of the strings effortlessly blending with Trudy’s magnificent voice, whilst Swedish pianist Jan Lundgren’s sensitive, textural piano playing make this track one of the stars on the album for me personally. Moment’s Notice demonstrates Trudy’s skill with vocalese, both lyrically and with her driving senses of rhythm and phrasing on this Coltrane classic, while her demonstrative version of My Foolish Heart conveys a unique uncertainty, bringing an entirely new meaning to the lyrics. Another favourite of mine from Contemplation is the warm bossa Two Kites, with a mellow combination of open, vast-feeling orchestration and the rhythmic melody. There is a kind of fantasy to this song, like capturing the feeling of flying - you can hear the rush of the wind and fun in Trudy’s voice.
This is a perfect album for an evening at home by the fireside, with the lights dimmed and a glass of a complex-tasting red wine. Delivering Contemplation with a sweet, poignant delicacy and wonderfully flexible sound, the singer demonstrates that she has always been a remarkable talent, and is still at the top of her game. Drawing you into each song with a poignant sensitivity, Trudy Kerr takes you on a wonderful journey with this selection of songs.
Subtitled 'The Best Of Trudy Kerr', Contemplation is a retrospective of the singer's career through selections from her ten album discography.
Contemplation takes in Kerr's career from Blossom Dearie's Sweet Surprise - a track from her debut album (Sweet Surprise, Jazzizit Records, 1997) - through to Poppies, from The Rhythm of Life: Ted And Gladys (Jazzizit Records, 2013), credited jointly to Kerr and her husband and bassist Geoff Gascoyne.
Across these songs Kerr is acompanied by some of the finest musicians in the UK, including Gascoyne, drummers Sebastian De Krom and Matt Home and pianist Tom Cawley. Kerr draws on a wide range of writers, from the pop stylings of Bacharach and David (Seconds) and Gerry Goffin and Carole King (Go Away Little Boy) to Duke Ellington (In A Sentimental Mood, with Michael Garrick on piano) and John Coltrane (Moment's Notice, lyrics by Kerr).
The range of writers is matched by Kerr's breadth of approaches to performance. Tea For Two is an up-tempo, Anita O'Day-style take on the old standard with backing from Gascoyne, De Krom and baritone saxophonist Derek Nash. Makin' Whoopee is a sultry, slow burn, number featuring trumpeter Dick Pearce. Kerr's moving performance of My Foolish Heart tears at the heartstrings, while her take on Antonio Carlos Jobim's Two Kites mixes bossa nova groove with the romance of the Juno String Quartet. There are also a couple of Kerr/Gascoyne originals: Poppies and Save Me. Both are gentle love songs, the latter given a bit of extra edge by Ashley Slater's trombone solo.
Two of the gentler performances stand out for the beauty of both Kerr's vocals and the musical accompaniment. She gives Happy Talk a much more reflective arrangement than it usually gets: no forced jollity, more an acknowledgement that life isn't always like you might wish. Cawley, Gascoyne and De Krom pick up on and heighten this feeling. For the Rogers and Hart classic Glad To Be Unhappy she's joined by the trio of Gascoyne, De Krom and guest pianist Mulgrew Miller. The pianist fits right in, as though he's been accompanying Kerr for years.
Compilation albums can often create debate and even dissent, mostly about what's notincluded - for example, there's nothing here from the excellent Reunion (Jazzizit, 2010), Kerr's album with fellow vocalist Ingrid James. Such an absence is an indication of the quality of Kerr's discography: there's much to celebrate about a compilation like Contemplation that doesn't have room for every song deserving of inclusion.
Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz
A mainstay of the British mainstream jazz vocals scene with some 10 albums already under her belt this new compilation from Trudy Kerr begins in pride of place with the Rodgers and Hart song Glad to be Unhappy where the Australian-born singer is accompanied by pianist Mulgrew Miller, who sadly died last year, and by her husband bassist Geoff Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom, the pair who were important early on in Jamie Cullum’s rise to fame.
Kerr inhabits reliably unmannered pure-toned classic jazz singer territory grounded deeply in bop traditions and the Great American Songbook of which there are generous helpings here on this best-of that besides Daydream (2000) also selects from My Old Flame (2002), Cloudburst (2005), Déjà Vu (2007), Like Minds (2009) featuring Michael Garrick just a few years before the pianist passed away, and The Rhythm of Life (2012).
There are also songs Kerr has co-written with Gascoyne, and even a lesser known delicately delivered Burt Bacharach song Seconds (written though by Bacharach with Neil Simon not Hal David as the credits have it). An ideal catch-up on the soft-voiced singer if you haven’t heard her before. For everyone else a reminder of an artist whose skill and taste we probably take far too much for granted.
With the volume of excellent albums by the singer Trudy Kerr that she and her husband, bassisit Geoff Gascoyne have released on their Jazzizit label, it must have been quite a task to compile this ‘Best of’ collection. These 15 chosen tracks, involving 23 musicians, may be the best - certainly, they’re all very good.
The overall atmosphere and communication are enhanced by the intermingling of varied backings. Five using the basic piano, bass and drums and expressive ballads, culminating in a notably different take on Happy Talk. One of two with a extent is their own 3/4 original, Save Me, which features appealing trombone by Ashley Slater. Four are with a single significant horn. an up-templ Tea for Two has Trudy joining forces on lyrics and scat with the baritone of Derek Nash. Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice brings speedy vocalese and skilful Alan Skidmore tenor. A nicely relaxed reading of Bacharach’s Seconds is aided by the sound of Graham Blevins’ alto. On a joyous Making Whoopee, it’s Dick Pearce’s trumpet adding colour.
Two tracks have been extracted from 2007’s Deja Vu, which was graced by Sweden’s Jan Lundgren on piano and the Juno String Quartet. A spaced-out They Say It’s Wonderful is highly distinctive, and Jobim’s Two Kites is a lively Latin treat. Two other tracks I must mention, as they might be deemed the best of the best, Trudy delivers a very tender treatment of Monk’s Ruby My Dear solely accompanied by Tom Cawley’s piano; and just on from the classic Like Minds of 2009 teams her with the late, great Mike Garrick. For jazz vocal devotees, this is a must.
Les Tomkins, Jazz Rag
Jazzizit records has issued contemplation 15 tracks featuring singer Trudy Kerr.
A collection of tracks from her previous Jazzizit albums. She is a singer of considerable breath, her jazz instincts are wonderful but she also moves into popular as well. Her back up here draws from many including Mulgrew Miller, Michael Garrrick, Dick Pearce, Derek Nash, Alan Skidmore. The album boasts “15 of the best”. It’s not the 15 I’d pick but there is enough here to make me go back to previous issues. Hopefully this issue doesn’t mean the end of her association with Jazzizit. Trudy Kerr can, as they say, really sell a song.
Australian-born singer Trudy Kerr has established herself as a stalwart of the London jazz scene since she moved to Britain in the 1990s making her debut at Ronnie Scott’s. Ten albums into her career, she has paused to look back and this new album offers a selection of her best recordings.
Kerr (no relation) has an airy, low voice and a style which demonstrates imagination and vocal dexterity. Personally, I prefer the ballads, since she has a lovely interesting voice and offers unexpected takes on the familiar. Highlights include Glad to be Unhappy, My Foolish Heart, Makin’ Whoopee, Seconds and In a Sentimental Mood - and among the impressive line-up of musicians featured are Jim Mullen (guitar), Mulgrew Miller and Michael Garrick (both piano).
Alison Kerr, Scotland on Sunday