August  2002

Janis Siegel - I Wish You Love
Telarc CD-83551
Released: 2002

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on DVD]When you’ve been as big a part of a long-running, award-winning, crowd-pleasing vocal group like  Manhattan Transfer for over 25 years, what can you possibly do for an encore? That is the problem confronting Janis Siegel. How will it be possible to top the success of that superb vocal ensemble? Judging from Siegel's latest solo effort, her Telarc debut I Wish You Love, she doesn’t attempt to. Instead, she continues to sing in the tradition of Manhattan Transfer, but doing so with songs of her own choosing.

In fact, I Wish You Love could easily pass for a lost Transfer disc. The bouncy rhythms are all present and accounted for -- as is the irresistible swing that has always been a hallmark of MT. And yet, to call this album derivative would do both it and Ms. Siegel a grave injustice. For while Siegel cannot escape her past, she’s canny enough to use that experience to create an album that is as full of femininity as it is of individuality.

Even the track sequence is intelligent. The upbeat, swinging songs are followed by softer, more touchy-feely tunes, which helps hold one's attention for the disc's duration.

Backed by a first-rate rhythm section consisting of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist David Williams and drummer Winard Harper, Siegel receives additional support from some of today’s best jazzmen: Tom Harrell on flügelhorn, Bill Ware on vibes, and the inestimable David "Fathead" Newman on tenor sax. I Wish You Love was supervised, produced, mixed and mastered by Joel Dorn, a man who needs no introduction to jazz fans.

The disc boasts top-notch sonics, as one would expect from Telarc. The individual instruments possess an extremely natural tonal balance, along with a wonderfully full soundstage. The drums have snap, the bass is full, and the piano, while it could have been a tad richer, has excellent inner detail. And wait until you hear Newman’s sax. -- so breathy, so beautifully rendered. It is some of the best-recorded sax sound I’ve heard.

I Wish You Love allows Janis Siegel to demonstrate a side to her enormous vocal talent that she’d been unable to showcase while a member of Manhattan Transfer. The twist Siegel puts on that tried-and-true formula will gladden the hearts of that band's fans -- and if you’re not among them, then the individuality of I Wish You Love is sure to impress.