Kim Cypher – Make Believe
(KCM001 – CD review by Mark McKergow)
Saxophonist and singer Kim Cypher breaks through onto the national stage with this beguiling and accessible collection of originals and classics, performed with great verve and style.
Cheltenham-based Cypher (who therefore sounds a little like a product of GCHQ, another of the town’s notable connections) plays the full range of saxes from soprano to baritone. Her tone on all of them is full and clear, with nods to both Andy Sheppard for richness and Pee Wee Ellis for occasional grunt. She sings too – with a delightfully mature and crisp voice that oozes confidence. The overall style of this collection might be termed ‘smooth jazz’, but that would simply not do justice to the variety on offer throughout these 13 tracks.
Cypher puts her original compositions up front, with a dramatic opening to her song Make Believe with its soaring sax line before swinging into the vocal and a nicely judged scat chorus. Cheltenham jazz festival regular/improvisation guru Alex Steele provides sensitive piano accompaniment and soloing, before the band moves into the wafting waltz original Hayley. My Big Bossa is just that, showing Cypher’s tenor sax to good effect, while It Makes No Difference and My Oh My shimmer in a late night vibe of relaxation and reflection.
The album gathers pace at the halfway point, with Cypher’s Slinky Minxy hitting the Parisian café mood with accordion accents. Next up is John Lennon’s Imagine; my heart always hits the floor seeing this noble-but-droning tune coming up, but Cypher finds an upbeat organ riff from Anders Olinder, refrains from singing and treats it as an alto sax workout in the direction of Jr. Walker with very satisfying results. Tainted Love is given a treatment going back towards its Northern Soul roots with a jaunty performance featuring some nice trumpet work from Steve Trigg, while Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To is given a reggae-ish bounce.
Cypher saves some of the best until last. An impassioned instrumental take on the Hoagy Carmichael classic Georgia On My Mind shows off both some great sax playing and the tight backing from guitarist Lee Jones, bass player Wayne Elliott and drummer (and husband) Mike Cypher which has underpinned the whole enterprise. And just when you think it’s over, along comes the final original Upper West Side Blues, a bouncing organ-grooving 12 bar to send everyone home with a spring in their step.
With a recent album launch at Pizza Express offshoot The Pheasantry on London’s Kings Road, this entertaining collection sets out Kim Cypher’s stall of accessible and classy music with a very wide appeal. If that’s your kind of thing, seek her out and enjoy.