Zoe Francis – Looking for a Boy
(Zoe Francis Records ZFR960. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Zoe Francis began her singing career in New York, while working as a nanny and studying dance at evening classes there. Her first gigs were to audiences at assisted living and nursing homes in Brooklyn and the Bronx, but she was soon singing regularly at various clubs in Greenwich Village, midtown and uptown.
This is her first album, and features her unfussy, pure-toned, admirably clear vocals on a carefully chosen set of standards by the likes of Harry Warren/Mack Gordon (‘I Had the Craziest Dream’, ‘I Wish I Knew’), the Gershwins (‘I Was Doing Alright’, ‘Looking for a Boy’) and Irving Berlin/Frank Sinatra (‘It Only Happens When I Dance with You’), all of which she delivers with cool but affecting aplomb, her diction perfect, her range impressive.
Pianist Dave Newton, guitarist Colin Oxley and bassist Andrew Cleyndert provide impeccable support – Newton all rippling grace and quiet elegance, Oxley soloing with assurance and ease, Cleyndert discreetly propulsive – but it is Francis herself who commands attention throughout this consistently entertaining set, a particular highlight of which is Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg’s delightfully wry ‘Down with Love’, but which, by avoiding the more obvious, well-trodden path through the Great American Songbook, provides the perfect debut showcase for a classy, poised singer who respects her material enough to deliver it straight and true.