Just as 19th century German composers melded the poetry of Schiller, Heine and Goethe to their newly composed music to create Romantic art song, so too has Sheila Landis and Rick Matle created art song in the jazz idiom on their newest CD release Riding the Round Pool
. Of the twelve tunes on the CD, nine are originals by Landis, Matle, and percussionist Dennis Sheridan. The three familiar standards "Secret Love," "Garota de Ipanema," and "My Baby Just Cares for Me," are all done in a unique manner providing a new perspective that makes them seem like new songs.
The flute of Larry Nozero is featured on a driving samba version of "Secret Love." This treatment of "Secret Love" also has Landis scatting in juxtaposition to Nozero’s solo. Jobim’s "Girl from Impanema" is done in the familiar Bossa Nova feel. Landis and company make enough alterations in the melody and accompaniment however, to make this standard sound fresh, new, and just a touch "outside" the mainstream. "My Baby Just Cares for Me" is performed as a straight-ahead swinger, perhaps to remind the listener that among all of the artistic creativity abound on the CD, Landis can still get down to the basics of swinging singing.
The result of adapting the poetry of Robert Frost, Jim Perkinson, Irvine Barat, Polly Oprahl, Margo LaGattuta, and Sheila Landis herself, creates new and different songs that go well beyond the typical "moon, June, croon, tune" rhyme typical of songs in the popular vein. These new songs are not modeled that far from those of the Romantic masters of the 19th century lieder, in that they are more closely aligned to a through-composed approach in which the music is selected to heighten the expressiveness of the imagery portrayed in the poets’ words rather than merely fitting lyrics to a particular song form. Landis and Matle also heighten the expressiveness of their work through musical and interpretive approaches that are at times ethereal, and other times near psychedelic journeys into the depths of the subconscious. Of particular note in this vein are the songs "New Millennium," "Beyond Kisses," "Into Your Brain/I’m Not Who You Think I Am," and "Life in Flamenco Green." Although Barat’s poetic tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, "First Lady," is easily recognized as being adapted to a 12 bar blues form, the other poem adaptations are much freer in form, with Landis taking liberties with the flow of text of the poem repeating some sections or intertwining some stanzas with improvised instrumental or scat solos.
While there is some straight ahead approaches present on