Kate Daniels – Atmospherics
(Loxford Records. K2. CD Review by Peter Jones)
London-based singer Kate Daniels has coined a musical genre of her own – jazz noir. On this self-produced album, her stated aim was to recreate the dark mood of the films she loved while growing up – particularly The Third Man. Shored up by an experienced crew of British jazz talent, Atmospherics is actually not as downbeat as that. On tunes such as the rim-shot clattering A Night in Tunisia and the folky Nature Boy, the music has a stripped- down quality whose sparseness creates space for the music to breathe, and freshens up material that might otherwise sound over-familiar; elsewhere, as on I Thought About You, a rollicking Tom Waits-style rendition of the Jacques Brel tune Port of Amsterdam and Don’t Worry About Me, Daniels’s background in folk music and cabaret shines through, to pleasing effect.
For me, the violin has not always been the most welcome instrument in jazz, but here, in the swinging and confident hands of Mike Piggott, it’s one of the best things about the album. Entwined with John Etheridge’s guitar, it lends several tracks a convincing Hot Club/gypsy jazz vibe. The styles vary: Beautiful Love and the Anita O’Day-inflected Whisper Not are pretty much straight-ahead piano trio tunes, whilst Angel Eyes marks the single appearance of a Fender Rhodes.
Daniels’s vocal delivery is breathy, dramatic and confident. An effortless style like this is always testament to years of actual effort. And it’s good to hear Witchcraft performed by a woman: despite famous versions by everyone from Sinatra to Mark Murphy, Carolyn Leigh’s lyrics never quite sound right coming from a man. Having said that, there are one or two instances (e.g. Angel Eyes, Nature Boy) where the last note of a vocal phrase isn’t precisely on pitch – an ever-present danger with minimalist arrangements that leave the singer exposed. However, as the title indicates, this album is all about atmosphere, and the playing of John Horler, Alec Dankworth and Winston Clifford is every bit as good as you’d expect.