Here's to Ben is the first release from a new record company, GrooveNote. This does not mean that we are talking about beginners here. At last year's Frankfurt audio show, in the room where the fabulous Simon Yorke turntable was being demonstrated, I met Ying Tan, one of the founders of Classic Records, justly famous in audiophile circles for their reissues of classic LPs. Ying carried a test pressing of an LP that his new label, GrooveNote, was releasing, and everybody present listened with genuine pleasure to a cut with Jacintha, a young singer who seems to be world famous in Singapore. The sound was positively seductive, and I picked up a CD copy.
The title of this collection, which is released on LP, normal CD and gold CD, refers to the late saxophonist Ben Webster. Furthermore, the disc is billed as a vocal tribute to Webster. That said, the numbers on Here's to Ben are jazz standards and a few other numbers given the jazz/ballad treatment. This will make some listeners rejoice and others bemoan.
No matter what you think of the program, we are talking about real audiophile ear-candy here. Jacintha has an absolutely ravishing voice that's quite enough to make me melt and seep away. When she sings "Georgia on My Mind," "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," or "The Look Of Love," I simply have to surrender. Jacintha's voice just does this to me.
The musicians here are real veterans in the most positive sense. Among them we find sax player Teddy Edwards, who since he recorded with Billie Holiday in the '50s has played on quite a few Blue Note recordings. There's also pianist Kei Akagi, trumpeter Larance Marable, and bassist Derek Oles. They are all real pros and have played with some of the most well-known names in jazz.
Jacintha is a more than capable singer and has been quite closely miked for this recording. This can be a definite plus, but I must admit that I would have liked a little bit more acoustically coherent perspective. Perhaps I should not complain too much with such an attractive voice breathing in my ear.
Here's to Ben is a record that can put you into a mood late at night. It may not enlighten a true jazz connoisseur, but as an amateur, I have had many a good time with it.
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