If anything, I’m guilty of fearing vocal jazz. I think because so many people are doing it, and to my ears it comes off like “a lot of people are doing it wrong”, but are they? It’s not so much wrong, as it’s that they’re doing it badly, so with a bit of hesitation, I put Anne Walsh‘s Go (self-released) into the CD player and wondered what I’d hear. The cover has her looking like she’s dressed to go on vacation to an exotic location, and inside, she’s sitting on a suitcase in front of a bungalow, location meant to be unknown but I see an island that looks a bit like Chinaman’s Hat on the east side of O’ahu, with a building I’m unfamiliar with. Then I see Smith and I’m going “she’s out in the sun, I hope she put on some suntan lotion, maybe SPF 120″, I’m being cruel before I hear a note. Then the music of “Cinnamon & Clove” begins and it puts me in Rio. Then I hear her voice and I’m going “oh!”, as in “oh, this is not bad.” For me, it’s my signal to metaphorically unpack and listen.
What I like about Go is that it’s an album that jumps around and explores different styles of jazz, assisting in helping to accent Walsh’s voice, which is never forced nor does she try to exaggerate in order to overdo it. She knows her capabilities, and she truly gets into these songs as if she wrote them, which helps the listener to make them believe “I could be there too” or “I know exactly how that feels”. Her approach in songs like Cole Porter‘s “So In Love”, Richard Stekol‘s “Je Vousem Beaucoup”, and the title track by Wayne Shorter is easy but not overly smooth, you want to hear what she does, how she does it, in the hopes of bringing you home at the end of each song.
As is customary, most of these songs are covers but there are two Walsh originals, “Spring’s Unfold (For Mary & Fran)” and “Cascade Of The Seven Waterfalls”, and it would be interesting to hear how others interpret these songs, as they are quite good. With Walsh, it would be interesting to hear her do a few more contemporary songs, but not in a way where she’s trying to be R&B, dubstep or whatever, that wouldn’t work. Take one or two songs and bring them into her world with her approach to them. The songs were arranged by producer and pianist Thomas Zink, so credit him as well for what this album sounds like, one that I have no hesitation in recommending for those who enjoy vocal jazz. There’s the term “dentist jazz” when it comes to music that is bad, but Go is an album that is definitely not that.