Marsha Bartenetti: Sings McNealy & Kuhns

Singer is set briefly in a Californian cocktail of impressionism and lush string arrangements, with hints of jazz

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It’s always interesting to listen to singers reportedly with jazz antecedents if only to estimate what they would sound like at full throttle. Marsha Bartenetti’s interpretation of songs by Jane McNealy and Alice Kuhns makes her a contender, but neither the songs nor the interpretation could be classified as jazz without a ton of special pleading.

In any case, the album was conceived by prolific songwriter and arranger McNealy following a stage-four cancer diagnosis and what her publicist calls “advancing years”. So maybe it was not intended to be a jazz album in the first place. Bartenetti’s description of the experience as akin to “travelling through an impressionistic painting” and of the “lush arrangements, imagery and the colours of the music and lyrics” suggests something beyond even jazz’s elastic parameters.

This is despite the claims made in the publicity: that Sarah Vaughan once performed I Never See That Rainbow Anymore and that the “jazzy number” Running Around is bolstered by Jeff Bunnell’s “classy” trumpet and Rusty Higgins’s “soulful” saxophone.

It’s all in soft-focus even when what sounds like a battalion of super-shiny strings ebbs to leave the jazz instruments exposed. If this is jazz it’s only jazz in its borrowed form, to add an aura of sophistication of the sort required by a TV advert for Martini.

As for Bartenetti’s “smooth jazz, great American songbook-style” (sic) and her travels through an impressionistic painting, a descent to earth now and then might have made the emotions of these songs – some painful – more raw, more worthy of commiseration, more “Sassy”. In another place, another pigeon-hole, they might encounter a more sympathetic reviewer, or at least one wearing a different hat. But not necessarily.

Discography
Why Does The Sky Keep Changing; Running Around; Love; One Day At A Time; What Is Today Without You; I Never See That Rainbow Anymore; Kite In The Clouds (25.55)
Bartenetti (v); Mike Watts (p, acc, arr); Andrew Synowiec (g); Ray Brinker (d); Jeff Bunnell (t); Rusty Higgins (s); Charlie Bisharat (vn); and others. Los Angeles. No other information given.
Lo-Flo Records