CD review

Tina May – ’52nd Street (and Other Tales)/ The Songs of Duncan Lamont’

Tina May – 52nd Street (and Other Tales)/ The Songs of Duncan Lamont
(33 Records. CD Review by Frank Griffith)

British jazz singer Tina May celebrates the songs of Scottish born saxophonist/composer/arranger and songwriter, Duncan Lamont (1931-2019 – TRIBUTE).  And there’s no better vocalist for this role.

Her ability to tread carefully and gently into a persona along with the requisite technical mastery to deliver it are just the job for Lamont’s songs. The thirteen selections on 52nd Street vary widely in moods and messages with each one possessing their own unique bravura intricacies. All of which, Ms May rises to with aplomb.

Tina writes lovingly of Duncan in the liner notes revealing their long term musical bond (having met over 30 years ago at London’s 606 jazz club) and how important and special it was. “I felt so excited and lucky to be invited to sing these extraordinarily lovely songs which are so more than songs; vignettes, little snapshots of the human condition, pieces of theatre. His songs are always very perceptive, a gift to any singer”.

Duncan’s son, saxophonist, Duncan Lamont Jr, who produced the recording also writes- “On this album Tina delivers a vocal tour-de-force and inhabits the mood of each song, capturing the essence, both lyrically and musically”. I concur with this sentiment fully as one who has played, recorded and arranged for Tina. She brings all of these same qualities to the table in every musical setting that she takes part in. This was evident in her renditions of Duncan’s songs Manhattan In The Rain and Where Were You In April on which the composer imparted a poetic and telling tenor solo.

The James Pearson Trio rises to the occasion with brio, as well. Pearson, who has been resident pianist and music director of Ronnie Scott’s since 2007 has the ability to shine in any music style. Coupling his fleet-fingered technique with an understanding of what each song requires. Bassist, Sam Burgess (a 1990s graduate of the music course at Brunel University) provides more than reliable support with his effortless fluidity and groove, not to mention a nifty solo turn on There Ain’t Nothing Like The Blues. The drumwork of Chris Higginbottom clearly knits this musical menu together with his ability to “speak” on his drums. From digging-in to providing space to complement any musical direction at the service of the song.

The “cameos” of guests, Mark Nightingale– trombone, Phil Hopkins– percussion and Karen Street– accordion, add a savorous bouquet of sounds and effects to the proceedings. Street’s Paris street-like accordion bubbling obbligato (“bubbligatto”?) serenades Tina’s French-tinged Camille nicely. Nightingale’s robust trombone outings on 52nd Street, The Apartment and Your Waltz are joyous and riveting adding a welcome foil to Tina’s interpretations.

Bravo to all hands in this exemplary testimonial to the songs of Duncan Lamont. This includes the top recording facilities of Session Corner Studio, stewarded by engineer, Nick Pugh as well as veteran label boss, Paul Jolly of 33 Records.

The last words come again from Duncan Jr. “To have Duncan’s songs performed by these world class musicians and ‘in the can’ for posterity is something very special for me, and I hope for you to”. Absolutely…and one looks forward to Volume 2 with great anticipation.

Frank Griffith is a saxophonist and arranger based in Liverpool. His two CDs with Tina May “Divas” (2013) and “My Kinda Love” (2014) are on Hepjazz.

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