Libby York: Dream Land 

Late-blooming Chicagoan singer shows the wait was worth it, interpreting familiar and less familiar songs mostly with just guitar and bass


Although she sang as a child, family life and career choices kept Chicago-born Libby York from becoming a professional singer until she was in her mid-30s. When she did, her exceptional abilities were instantly apparent and her albums, Blue Gardenia (Southport 1999), Sunday In New York (Blujazz 2003), Here With You and Memoir (Libby York Music (2008 & 2014) helped spread the word as did her singing in hotels and clubs in New York and Paris.

Regrettably though, for those who appreciate good jazz singing, there came a nine-year gap in her recording career. Now, with this new album we can hear that York’s unmistakable talent has not withered through neglect; indeed, it has blossomed. Fluid and always melodic, her vocal sound blends qualities that are often at odds in the voices of singers: maturity and freshness.

Backed on most tracks by only guitarist Randy Napoleon and bassist Rodney Whitaker, York’s lithe swing subtly eases the songs into the jazz canon. When singing ballads, her interpretation of lyrics is always heartfelt, drawing in the listener and making the moment personal.

The repertoire chosen here includes some standards, a breezy Hit The Road To Dreamland (Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer) and a similarly lively Mountain Greenery (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart), but mostly York has chosen songs that while well known are far from being overused. Particularly attractive are York’s take on An Occasional Man (Ralph Blane & Hugh Martin), When October Goes (Barry Manilow & Johnny Mercer) and Something Cool (Billy Barnes).

Some critics have compared York favourably with leading jazz singers of an earlier generation and while this may be so, it is unfair because she is always herself. Libby York is a singer who richly deserves to be heard internationally and much more frequently. Very warmly recommended to all who enjoy hearing good songs well sung by a highly-talented jazz singer.

(1) Hit The Road To Dreamland; Estrada Branca (This Happy Madness); Mountain Greenery; Cloudy Morning; (2) Throw It Away; (1) Rhode Island Is Famous For You; Still On The Road; When October Goes; Moonray; (2) An Occasional Man; (1) Something Cool; (2) It’s Love (55.17)
(1) York (v); Randy Napoleon (g); Rodney Whitaker (b). Lansing, Michigan, autumn 2021. (2) as (1) add Keith Hall (d).
Origin Records OA2 22208