Daryl Sherman‘s new CD, LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE (Audiophile), is just splendid, and I don’t exaggerate. I’d thought that with her most recent disc, MY BLUE HEAVEN, she’d reached a real peak of intimacy and swinging expressiveness. But this newest recording offers even more expansive delights. And, by the way, don’t let the title put you off: the music is not morose.
Daryl, once again, presents very heartfelt dramatic vignettes — a dozen. It’s a tasting menu for the ears, the brain, and the heart, and one can dine at this particular restaurant over and over again. No shock at the multi-digit bill, no caloric woes.
Daryl’s colleagues — in various permutations — are our hero Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet; Don Vappie on guitar, banjo, and vocal; Jesse Boyd, string bass; Boots Maleson, string bass on RAINBOW HILL only.
They are a splendid crew, but I want to say something about the pianist, who also happens to be Ms. Sherman. Daryl’s playing here is so fine that I occasionally found myself distracted from what she was singing or one of the instrumentalists was playing to admire its restrained elegance that never lost the beat. Think, perhaps, of Hank Jones or of Dick Katz. And when Daryl accompanies herself, she is — without multiple-personality disorder — a pianist who is kind to the singer and a singer who doesn’t overwhelm the pianist. Her opening instrumental duet with Jon-Erik on the title song is wonderful — the way it should be done.
Then there’s Daryl the composer / lyricist: both selves in evidence on the opening song, THE LAND OF JUST WE TWO, a song that could easily pass as a kinder, gentler Frishbergian romance. Her lyrics to Turk Mauro’s improvisation over TANGERINE that he called TURKQUOISE are nimble and witty.
There’s Daryl the song-scholar: offering not only the rarely heard verse to STARS FELL ON ALABAMA but the never-heard verse to IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN, bringing forth Barbara Carroll’s LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE — with sweetly anachronistic lyrics (from 1956) by Irving Caesar that speak of finding a dime for the pay phone — and Billy VerPlanck’s RAINBOW HILL, here offered as a fond tribute to Daryl’s friend, Billy’s wife, singer Marlene.
There’s Daryl the comedienne, never resorting to “humor,” which quickly wears thin, but underpinning her vocal delivery with an unexpressed giggle. I don’t know that it’s possible to sing and grin simultaneously, but there are places on AT SUNDOWN where I’d swear it was happening, and even more so as Daryl negotiates her way with great style through THE LORELEI. It’s not comedy, exactly, that uplifts many of the songs on this disc, but it is Daryl’s pleasure at being able to be the vehicle through which the music passes to us. EVERYTHING BUT YOU is not just an Ellington song to her, but a witty, rueful commentary on romance.
Going back to my start: when I first heard MY BLUE HEAVEN, I thought, “This is the way Daryl really sounds in the most welcoming circumstances — no debatable amplification system, no patrons with glasses full of ice, no waitstaff asking, “Who has the parmigiana?” Her singing on CROWDED PLACE is even more subtly compelling, if that’s possible. I won’t compare her to other singers: she is herself, and that’s reassuring. The recording by David Stocker is faithful without being clinical or chilly, so that her remarkable sound — “sounds,” I should say — come through whole.
I would have singers study her phrasing on this disc — that wonderful science of balancing song and conversation, adherence to the melody and improvisation. How she does it from song to song, from chorus to chorus, is something quite remarkable.
And Daryl presents herself as not “just a singer,” which is to say, someone trained in singing and performance practice who has brought a dozen lead sheets to the studio, but someone with great (quietly dramatic) skill at making each song its own complete emotional and intellectual statement. Each of the twelve performances is like a fully-realized skit or an aural short story, and no one sounds like the other in some monotonous way. Consider the sweet — and I mean that word seriously — duet (a duet of many colors, shifting like a long sunset) between Daryl and Don on YOU GO TO MY HEAD, a song that I would have thought done to a crisp, or the HELLO, DOLLY! world Daryl and Co. create on NEW SUN IN THE SKY. These are memorable performances, each one with its own shadings. And the mood is often a wise tenderness, something rare and needed in our world.
Daryl’s colleagues are inspiring on their own, but at times rise to new and surprising creative heights. Boots Maleson is her long-time colleague, and his one offering, RAINBOW HILL, reminds me of how beautifully he plays, both pizzicato and arco. More to the forefront is bassist Jesse Boyd, eloquent and swinging. I have the privilege of seeing and hearing Jon-Erik Kellso often in New York City, and I know him best as the heroic leader of the EarRegulars, but here he is a superb accompanist as well as delivering some melodic choruses that startled me with their beauty, or providing the perfect echoes in THE LORELEI. I’d only known Don Vappie at a distance, but his rhythm guitar is more than welcome, his solos remind me of a down-home Charlie Byrd, his banjo is splendid, and his vocal duet on YOU GO TO MY HEAD is touching, loose, and inspiring. Fine incisive notes by Carol Sloane, who knows, also.
But this is Daryl’s masterful offering. I only apologize for writing at such length that some readers might have been delayed from purchasing several copies. LOST IN A CROWDED PLACE is that rewarding, and you can purchase it here. Thank you, Daryl.
May your happiness increase!