The passage of time and how it changes your reactions through repeated listens is the most interesting factor where music is concerned in so many ways. It’s obvious perhaps. A record after all is a record, a document. It’s not a temporary thing that will self-destruct in minutes. Listening now is not the same as listening at some time in the future.
That’s because music listening is personal and you change as you listen. The thing itself recorded there can’t change unlike an artist who can change from concert to concert.
Everyone is a little different but basically the method works. You know or come to know your tastes and the better you get at listening, then the more you can instantly ‘get’ a record. And you need to ‘get’ it, whether you are listening to review or not, whether emotionally (to be moved) or for some ‘logical’ reason (to work it out mechanically) or even, if that is possible, both.
It’s not rocket science, this ‘getting’ a record, more like recognising a person’s face and putting a name to it, basic study and many years listening to jazz will allow that. Of course sometimes you are totally thrown and a record stumps you or you are put off it for some trivial reason or prefer an earlier work and can’t actually listen properly because of how you feel the new work compares.
Musicians often think, and some reviewers do too, I certainly did for a while, that if a record is ‘uncategorisable’ then it’s better because of this. That isn’t always true. Uncategorisable can mean the message is not clear at all: the music doesn’t connect in any discernible way, it can just as easily be a mishmash.
But the thing I really think that is ‘unreviewographable’ to steal from Lorenz Hart and makes reviews so very fallible and impossible to completely trust is the passage of time factored in with the at that time unknown knowledge of future listens that the laws of physics prevent. That’s when after a while whether it is through future listens or even more hauntingly the memory of the album without even listening to it any further that after all you not just like it even more but love it to the nth degree even if you didn’t get it quite as much as when you first heard the record. You weren’t to know of course with your first draft reactions.
Years ago for instance hearing Wayne Shorter’s last great album Alegría for the first time, now one of my favourite of all records, there were no fireworks in my brain at all apart from speechless respect, but I kept going back, something kept telling me to, just the unsettling memory of missing something I should have got first time around that eventually revealed itself drove me to do this.
That’s a long way to introduce my favourite jazz-vocals record of the year so far, the passage of time, since first hearing the Stacey Kent album Tenderly, not years as in the Wayne instance, a mere six months.
Listening to Tenderly the 1990s float into view.
Nowadays Stacey Kent sounds like Stacey Kent, back then it was Blossom Dearie that everybody plucked out of the jazz encyclopedia of voices as the nearest accurate comparison to hand.
Kent’s best albums are – just a subjective opinion – Love is... The Tender Trap, The Boy Next Door and live album Dreamer.
There’s no drummer here either, that makes a difference. And that’s one of its chief talking points. Instead Stacey is joined by her sax/flute-playing husband Jim Tomlinson and by revered Brazilian guitarist Roberto Menescal who arranges and whose song ‘Agarradinhos’ appears in the latter part of the album. The personnel is completed by the patient and suitably classy double bassist Jeremy Brown on most of the tracks.
Standards? Well you could stick a pin in the Great American Songbook and you’d jab half of them found here randomly. Bookended by the Sammy Cahn/Benny Carter song ‘Only Trust Your Heart’ and Ted Shapiro/Jimmy Campbell/Reg Connolly’s ‘If I Had You’, ‘Tangerine’, ‘The Very Thought of You’, a routine ‘Embraceable You’, ‘There Will Never Be Another You,’ the title track ‘Tenderly,’ ‘No Moon at All,’ ‘If I'm Lucky’, ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ and ‘That's All’ make the studio choice.
Of course there’s a stately quality and such gentleness here that can heat up to melt the hardest of hearts but few surprises and no drop dead gorgeous moments alas although much comes close especially ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ Tomlinson’s introductory softly inuring sax line perfect, Stacey responding in her inimitable way. SG
Stacey Kent photo top: Diane Sagnier