Some vocalists dazzle with their virtuosity; others provide a healthy dose of fun standards sung well, but leave nothing original for the listener to grab onto; still others offer heartfelt renditions of both choice standards and others not so well-known. These vocalists let us into their world, but at the same time we know they are keeping secrets, many we will never know. A sigh, a smirk, a wink. We know what they’re saying in their songs, thinking it’s just to us in some secret cipher. Still, we know they have knowledge of much they’re not saying, if only we can make our way backstage after the set, they might let us know what they have deciphered from their viewpoint looking out.
Libby York fits into the latter category. Often known as a "cool" vocalist. Her latest CD, Sunday in New York is a precise example of maturity and control as a vocalist. She has understanding of lyrics, technical proficiency, and the band to back up her tremendous talents. Although she clearly comprehends the lyrics of these standards, she is also able to make them their own. She is more than technically proficient, yet she does not (nor does she need to) affix herself to virtuosic tricks. Her vocal sound is most reminiscent of Rosemary Clooney and Abbey Lincoln. Finally, her band is truly tremendous. The rhythm section partners with the Ms. York in the most elegant way. They provide support, comments, and bring the music to another level without overshadowing the leader.
The best examples of all these magnificent traits are on the first and last tunes of the album. "Midnight Sun" is lyrically complex, but not beyond the talents of Ms. York. She sings beautifully, and communicates strikingly. The rhythm sections containing the significant talents of Renee Rosnes, Billy Drummond, and Todd Coolman supply not only the small conversational pieces that make a true jazz section, but also hold their own as soloists and musicians. Nothing less could be expected from such unique voices as these fine folks. Frank Wess also provides old-school tenor sax flair on "Midnight Sun". The same can be said about "That’s All", the final tune on the album. All the wonderful attributes of each musician, as well as the group as a whole, come together for this concluding tune. After a full set, it provides certain closure.
Although Ms. York’s voice is most-suited to mature, complex material, she also handles more playful tunes such as "Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You" and "Down in Brazil" admirably. I’ve no idea of the age of Ms. York, but she gives us the idea with songs such as these that she has had a life well-lived; filled with love, playfulness, secret hideaways, world travel, and riches both material and personal.
The whole album is a tribute to the potential of the jazz voice. Libby York’s Sunday in New York is much like a fine wine. Not too sweet, not too bitter, aged perfectly. The best trait is that no matter if you listen to one track, have a single sip, listen to the whole album, or consume an entire bottle, you will always appreciate just a little more.