In a city full of stirring, individualistic jazz singers, I invite you to welcome Hilary Gardner to the great stage.
This isn’t to presume her a new discovery — hardly! But her debut CD is powerful, vivid, and emotionally varied.
She can sing, in short.
If you go immediately here (her homepage), two things will catch your attention. One is the praise of Hilary written by Twyla Tharp — someone who knows music deeply. The other is the sound of Hilary singing AUTUMN IN NEW YORK.
Delve a little deeper into her homepage (click on “music”) and you can hear more.
What I hear in THE GREAT CITY is a singer in full command of her lovely vocal instrument. Hilary has a mature awareness of the bonding and bending that goes on between singer, melody, and words. She offers us no melodrama, no vocal acrobatics; she honors the notes and the syllables, but she is not constrained by them.
She has chosen to retell the stories that the songs embody, each song a different story. I hear an elegant restraint lit from within by feeling and understanding. Hilary is wise enough to let the song carry her, wise enough to have absorbed great singers and instrumentalists, but especially wise enough to be herself. No Billie, no Betty, no Sarah, no . . . .
The CD is a ripe pleasure — each track its own vignette, so the listener never feels bored by sameness or startled by rough jumps of subject and mood. Hilary’s range is broad: there are the beautiful AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (verse and two choruses), WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG, a jaunty BROOKLYN BRIDGE, and a swaying YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS.
But her imagination doesn’t limit itself to “the Classics of the Great American Songbook,” and she reaches for Leonard Cohen, Nellie McKay, Tom Waits, and Joni Mitchell, making this CD an appealing anthology of short tales.
Hilary also has a deep awareness of the music’s foundations — without turning the disc into a repertory project. So her accompanists (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) include Tatum Greenblatt, trumpet; Jason Marshall, tenor saxophone, Jon Cowherd, organ; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Elias Bailey, string bass; Jerome Jennings, drums, and the invaluable Ehud Asherie, piano. Often the prevailing mood is neo-Basie. Could that be wrong?
It’s a wonderful debut from an artist who offers us a great deal. And I predict she will continue to delight us.
If you live in the tri-state area, the news is even more exciting. Hilary and Ehud will be performing in duet at Smalls (183 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York) on Sunday, April 7, beginning at 7:30. Details here. I am looking forward to it . . . please leave a few seats for me in the front row!
May your happiness increase.