Jocelyn Barth: Tell Him I Said Hello

Well-executed, somewhat reflective treatment of standards that could have benefited from the inclusion of some uptempo readings

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Toronto newcomer Jocelyn Bath has won accolades for her vocal performance on Canadian singer and trumpeter Marie Goudy’s critically acclaimed The Bitter Suite album, as well as featuring on clarinet player John MacMurchy’s Art Of Breath: Volume 2, Collective Order’s Volume Two and Volume Three albums, and Muse by the Tiki Collective. She has also worked with composer/violin player Jaron Freeman-Fox, film composer Mark Korven, Jane Sibery and metal bands Gargoyl and Thantifaxath.

Barth’s debut album as leader finds her heading a quartet on eight songs whose writers range from Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Douglass Cross through Bill Hegner and Jack Canning to Bobby Troup and Scott Walker. She is joined by pianist David Restivo (Mel Tormé, The Boss Brass, Randy Bachman, his own trio, and co-producer here), bass player Artie Roth (Greg Runions Group, Melissa Stylianou, Anne Lederman, his own quartet and quintet) and MacMurchy (Warren Vache, Henry Mancini, David Johannesson, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth).

Her singing voice has a fragile quality, as heard on Walker’s Copenhagen and Winter Night, beautiful slow tunes subtly ornamented by Restivo’s piano parts. Troup’s February Brings The Rain follows in similar vein with equally understated bass lines from Roth, while Cross and George C. Cory’s I’ll Look Around keeps things low and mellow, with vocal irony and more playful piano. Canning and Hegner’s closing title track again begins with the now-familiar plaintive piano, and includes a flute solo from MacMurchy which engages in teasing interaction with Restivo’s keyboard.

Best are the swing tunes, although Ellington and Bob Russell’s I Didn’t Know About You remains pretty calm despite bouncy work from Roth, and Porter’s All Through The Night, although picking up with busy piano and bass, is also quite stately. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh’s Lost In A Fog is a sublime bluesy number featuring a shimmering clarinet solo from MacMurchy over Barth’s lazy, appealing vocal.

This interpretative collection of standards features a delicate, sometimes thin voice, so with the exception of a few lower notes, you won’t hear much of singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Julie London who made them famous. While the arrangements and musical accompaniment are faultlessly performed, some uptempo treatments could lift the rather dreamy mood, as even those tracks marked “medium swing tunes” are pretty sedate. To conclude, this is well-executed set from a professional quartet boasting a unique vocalist, but it may not suit all tastes.

Discography
Copenhagen; I Didn’t Know About You; February Brings The Rain; Lost In A Fog; I’ll Look Around; All Through The Night; Winter Night; Tell Him I Said Hello (41.57)
Barth (v); David Restivo (p); Artie Roth (b, 1-4, 6 & 8); John MacMurchy (cl, 4; f, 8). Toronto, Canada, 2021.
Vesuvius Music VMI – 008