Rebecca Poole – Dreamers Ball
(Purdy Music. Album review by Bruce Lindsay)
For the last few years, singer and songwriter Rebecca Poole was known as Purdy, developing a career that’s seen her support Jools Holland’s band on tour and perform “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” in the episode of The Crown which saw Charles and Diana take to the dancefloor together. Now she’s returned to her birth name for Dreamers Ball, an album that, she says, brings her “back to the jazz sound.” On this evidence, jazz should welcome her return with open arms.
Dreamers Ball harks back to the classic jazz vocal albums of the 1950s: a stylish singer supported by an equally stylish small combo, high production standards, excellent sound quality, and a well-chosen collection of songs. It all seems set up for re-interpretations of American Songbook standards, but Poole takes a riskier, though ultimately successful, approach by presenting original material, nine songs that she has composed or co-composed. She’s joined on the album by a core group consisting of Mark Edwards on piano, Loz Garratt on double bass and Evan Jenkins or Matt Skelton on drums, with guitarist Dominic Stockbridge joining in on five tracks. They’re a supportive and sympathetic group of musicians, playing with grace and economy. From time to time they’re joined by James McMillan on brass, expanding the music’s tonal range. McMillan also produced and arranged the album.
Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue” is the album’s sole cover, a languid interpretation that stays close to Costello’s own version but sits well alongside Poole’s originals, which are characterized by consistently sophisticated and smooth performances. Opening track “Wouldn’t Change a Thing” is a slow-tempo, reflective but optimistic appraisal of past relationships and new love: it sets the tone for much of what follows. The exception is the punchy “Live for the Moment,” a mid-tempo swinger enlivened by Edwards’ sparkling piano and Morrison’s bright and breezy brass. It’s the album’s most upbeat and positive song, a contrast to the remaining songs’ slower tempos and gentler melodies — another more uptempo song like this would have helped to add a bit of variation to the programme’s emphasis on slower numbers.
On the lovely “Blue Eyes” Poole puts this reviewer, if no-one else, in mind of Crystal Gayle — not just because of the title’s reference to eye colour, but also because the music has a hint, intentional or not, of the 1970s Nashville sound. Poole adds her own multi-tracked backing vocals. “Clouded Moon” is another noteworthy song, co-written by Stockbridge and featuring his melodic, warm, guitar solo, it has a timeless quality to words and music, a song of praise to and affinity with the satellite that emerges brightly through the clouds so that “It’s like the sky has got a soul.”
Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.
Celebrations of the moon, songs of lost love, meditations on the past and optimism for the future are all here as Poole makes a very welcome return to “the jazz sound.”