Hilary Kole: Sophisticated Lady

Standards freshly sung with a band featuring guitarist John Hart


The start of Hilary Kole’s career as a jazz vocalist dates to 1998. As a very young vocalist she did the obligatory club sets of the time which consisted of four hours with 55 minutes on stage and five off for breaks. So, she certainly paid her dues early on.

For this new CD she recruited Chris Byars to provide a set of personalised arrangements that she felt would make her album unique. He certainly seems to have succeeded in giving her exactly what she wanted and here we have 10 standards given a personal Hilary Kole slant.

Sophisticated Lady is sung straight as is In A Sentimental Mood. As Hilary points out though, the latter is a difficult one for singers with its long lyric lines and the need to perform it at slow tempo for best results. She uses her flexible voice to good effect on both but is perhaps more distinctive and, probably, happier, on upbeat selections like The Best Thing For You and Somebody Loves Me. On these she can stretch out, exercise her wide vocal range and demonstrate her skill as a scat singer.

On nine of these tracks, she receives sterling support from the band with some fine solo work from Tom Beckham on vibes, arranger Byars on tenor sax or flute and Adam Birnbaum on piano and John Hart, guitar. Hilary describes Byars’ charts as dark, beautiful and challenging and they are certainly different to the usual. It helps too that her own voice is occasionally used in a sort of instrumental, wordless style, complementing the flow of the combo.

On Round Midnight Hilary is accompanied by just John Hart’s guitar and this is one of the very best selections on offer. The singer delivers the vocal in a manner that suggests she is fully in tune with the words and the guitar backs her up with sympathetic lines. Then it is back to uptempo excursions on It’s You Or No One, ending with The Sweetest Sounds. Only Let’s Face The Music sounds a little odd, being performed at ultra-slow tempo. I felt that this piece needed to be given a swift kick to get it up and running. On balance though this is a successful set of jazz vocals in a fresh setting.

Sophisticated Lady; Old Devil Moon; The Best Thing For You; Somebody Loves Me; Make Me Rainbows; Love Dance; In A Sentimental Mood; Let’s Face The Music And Dance; Round Midnight; It’s You Or No One; The Sweetest Sounds (57.58)
Kole, Tom Beckham (v); Chris Byars (ts, cl, f); John Hart (elg); Adam Birnbaum (p); Paul Gill (b); Aaron Kimmel (d). New Jersey, 2020.