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Breakfast On The Morning Tram by Stacey Kent

Breakfast on the Morning Tram is a charmer. No two ways about it. In her Blue Note debut album, Stacey Kent has modified her direction while remaining constant with the unruffleable sweetness of her voice. Instead of relying on the standards included in her past albums, Kent has presented four originals written by her long-time collaborator, reedman Jim Tomlinson, and an esteemed admirer, novelist Kozuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day). The result is that the originals blend seamlessly with pop songs like Stevie Nicks’s "Landslide" or evergreen tunes like "Never Let Me Go." The melody of a song like Tomlinson/Ishiguro’s "Ice Hotel" considers Kent’s range and the winsome appeal of her voice. Just as important, the lyrics create sophisticated situations with delectable aptness and witty rhymes, in the manner of Cole Porter’s. Consider the whimsy of guesting in a lodge built from blocks of ice: "Let’s you and me go away to The Ice Hotel / The Caribbean’s all booked out / And that’s just as well.... . / The thermostat guarantees / A steady minus-five degrees / What other place could serve our needs so well?" And Kent sings with openness and acceptance of the concept as if The Ice Hotel were merely a bread-and-breakfast she discovered in a travel book.

Two of the other originals involve travel as well, and so one assumes that one of the group’s themes involves the enjoyment of distant sites -- or at least wished-for enjoyment. Indeed, Kent openly sings that "I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again" but to an ingratiating samba rhythm reinforced by guitarist John Parricelli’s acoustic work. And those lyrics so naturally delivered and so innocently ironic! "I want to be awakened by a by a faulty fire alarm / In an overpriced hotel devoid of charm.... . / But how can I ever go travelling again.... / When I know I’ll just be gathering again / Reminders to break my heart?" Or there’s "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" with similarly piquant observations. "So things didn’t quite meet expectations.... / There’s no reason you should give a damn / Just treat yourself to a cinnamon pancake / Very soon you will forget your heartache." In addition, the song has been written with an engaging shifting between bluesiness of the main chorus and a quiet tentativeness of the presentation of the problem in the verse. Noticeably, all of these travel themes involve romance, it seems, and so does the fourth original song, "So Romantic," which, too, outlines a romantic situation with wryness and visual descriptions of movie scenes that more vividly depict the singer’s emotions. "You suddenly said Fate was pulling us apart / Then you shrugged, like there was nothing more to add / I suppose you considered that so romantic / Well, I just considered it sad." Kent sings "So Romantic" dreamily, augmented by Tomlinson’s pillowy alto sax solo, and reminds one of her Dreamsville album--the first two bars of which song appear to be incorporated into "So Romantic"--which captured the wistfulness of Kent’s delivery. Kent’s unabashed vulnerability that she conveys brings out the often previously unnoticed almost clinging-vine desperation in the lyrics of "Never Let Me Go," when she concludes without maudlin sentimentality "You’d never leave me, would you? / You couldn’t hurt, could you? / Never let me go."

This wistfulness occurs in "So Many Stars," whose title even evokes a golly-gee sense of wonder, and in fact, Kent does sing "The dawn is filled with dreams / So many dreams, which one is mine?" Wistfulness happens again on the album’s concluding song, "What a Wonderful World," her tribute to Louis Armstrong. Still, Kent makes the song her own, rather than paying tribute through imitation, by casually singing it as if she were walking through a park and noticing oh yes, look at that "the colors of the rainbow."

Special mention should be made of the unobtrusive and valuable contribution of her back-up group that knows Kent’s strengths and helps her singing glow through luminous accompaniment, rhythmic interest like that of "Ces Petits Riens’s" and appropriately lyrical solos like Tomlinson’s Getzian contribution to "Samba Saravah." Breakfast on the Morning Tram is, well, charming and a delight.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Stacey Kent
  • CD Title: Breakfast On The Morning Tram
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Tracks: The Ice Hotel, Landslide, Ces Pietits Riens, I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again, So Many Stars, Samba Saravah, Breakfast On The Morning Tram, Never Let Me Go, So Romantic, Hard-Hearted Hannah, La Saison Des Pluies, What A Wonderful World
  • Musicians: Stacey Kent (vocals), Jim Tomlinson (tenor, alto & soprano saxophone, flute), John Parricelli (guitar), Graham Harvey (piano, Fender Rhodes), Dave Chamberlain (bass), Matt Skelton (drums, percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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