Blues and jazz have always been closely related. And while I suspect many who insist on categorization would file this one under jazz rather than blues (if for no other reason than the instrumentation - piano, bass, sax and drums), in truth Di Anne Price simply smolders with a bluesy sensibility throughout "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."
Near as I can tell this is Di Anne's third solo outing. Hailing from Memphis, she's ably backed by "Her Boyfriends" (yes, that's the band's name), including Jim Spake on saxes, Tim Goodwin on bass, and Tom Leonardo on drums. (Scott Lane guests on bass on a couple of tracks). All provide impeccably sympathetic accompaniment to Di Anne's piano and vocals, but it's clearly her show, and rightly so; possessed of a sultry wonder of a voice, she delivers a generous fifteen tracks that explore that fine line between the two genres.
Opening with Ray Charles' "Halleluah I Love Him So," Di Anne sets the pace with equal parts sass and swing. Next it's "Tonight's The Night" (no, not the one by Rod Stewart - this is a jazzy number predating the pop hit by some fifty years), with Di Anne simply oozing languid sensuality; "Fever" is given an equally sultry take that leaves one with no doubt whatsoever that Di Anne's experienced her share of feverish longing.
The rest of the material follows suit; from Ellington's "I'm Just A Lucky So And So" through Gus Kahn's classic "Makin' Whoopee" to the old Ida Cox chestnut "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues," Di Anne explores the bluesier side of the Great American Songbook, with most of the numbers leaning to the uptempo side. (It's rare to hear a collection of this ilk with nary a ballad to be found; but given the resilient elasticity amply evident in Di Anne's slightly smoky voice, it shouldn't come as a surprise; one senses she's a survivor, given to moving on rather than wallowing in past hurt).
The readings are all straightforward - there's nothing terribly startling in either arrangement or approach - and that's just fine. It's Di Anne's subtly nuanced phrasing that reveals something new in even the most familiar numbers. Left in the background, one could easily take "A Good Man" as a solid collection of fine performances in a traditional vein. But listen a little closer and you'll hear a master stylist at work, one who chooses to stay 'inside,' respecting the compositions rather than indulging in radical reinvention.
A perfect disc for those times when nothing but the blues will do, but a more sensuous take is called for; and perfect for sharing, whether on a rainy day or candlelit evening.
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