American jazz singer Rachel Caswell has crystal-clear diction, spot-on pitch and rhythm, a warm, rich sound and an improvisational adroitness that grows on you the more you listen. She and her band reconfigure 10 famous songs from an array of stylistic genres and imprint their individual stamp on them. The quintet supporting Caswell are top class. Dave Stryker’s blues guitar on “Drown In My Own Tears” is particularly accomplished. Violinist Sarah Caswell (Rachel’s younger sister) has played with Esperanza Spalding. Fabian Almazon is Terence Blanchard’s longstanding pianist. Linda Oh is Pat Metheny’s bassist and in-demand drummer Johnathan Blake plays with Tom Harrell and Kenny Barron.
The album opens with a heartfelt rendition of Sting’s “Fragile” and goes on to cover songs by Bob Dorough, Harold Adamson, Rodgers and Hart, Henry Glover, Bricusse and Mancini, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, Jon Hendricks and Thelonious Monk. Whether its blues or bebop, Latin jazz or the Great American Song Book, Caswell delivers it all with elegance and consummate professionalism. Whilst there is probably a little too much vocalese for my part, I have to say it’s never boring. She’s one of the few singers who can scat without it becoming repetitive and her apparent effortlessness in this respect makes it sound easy. But don’t be deceived – it’s not.
Caswell has been described as a full-fledged diva with pure tones that swoop and soar like a reed instrument and the ability to improvise with great creativity. I couldn’t agree more. A true jazz artist – Rachel Caswell is the real deal.
Fragile; A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening; We’re All in the Dance; Devil May Care; Two for the Road; Drown in My Own Tears; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Tell Me a Bedtime Story; Dexterity; Reflections (Looking Back) (58.28)
Caswell (v); Sarah Caswell (vn); Dave Stryker (g); Fabian Alzmazan (p, org); Linda May Han Oh (b); Johnathan Blake (d). New Jersey, May 2018.
Turtle Ridge 003