It was a relief to open the gatefold halfway through listening to this and encountering the name of Jeanne Lee, since that is exactly what I had been thinking since the first few uncanny measures of “Misterioso”. The title is taken from a comment by Jeanne’s daughter Cavana, who said that’s how she felt when she first heard her mother sing. The Newest Sound Around recordings Lee made with Ran Blake have been in circulation again, which makes this music seem all the more urgently of the moment. Torti and her collaborator – interesting to hear a guitar rather than piano accompaniment – have gone right to the heart of the Lee/Blake collaboration, with its nourish intimacies and brave harmonic manoeuvres.
I was taken aback by “Raskolnikov”, which offers an unusual sense of Dostoevsky’s anti-hero, if that, indeed, was the intention, but forget the title and it’s a dazzling vocal performance over a wonderful low, burbling line from de Bari. I love to distraction Mal Waldron’s “The Seagulls of Kristiansund”, so was delighted to hear arrangement of another musician who understood singers inside out. Jeanne Lee’s own “In These Last Days” (you maybe know the version with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons) was a super-brave choice and she pulls it off magnificently. Likewise her own titular tribute.
But the wonder of this set, heard a second and third time, is the sheer range of sound de Bari gets out of his classical guitar, which seems to have as many tonal and textural personalities as there are songs here. He has it sounding like a bass, a plucked cello, a piano, a flamenco guitar, all within a few minutes; astonishing.
Not your average chanteuse album and not a Broadway song in sight. Don’t miss out on it because of that. It’s worth an hour of anyone’s time.
Misterioso; Straight Ahead; Raskolnikov; In These Last Days; The Man of the Sea; The Seagulls of Kristiansund; Honeysuckle Rose; Fireflies; On a Cloud; Cavalcando (48.34)
Torti (v), Sabino de Bari (classical g). London, April 2018.