Cheryl Bentyne has recorded a lot of solo albums over the years, in addition to her work with the Manhattan Transfer. Most notably among those, a superb duo recording with the equally impressive Mark Winkler (“West Coast Cool”, 2013). This new compilation with hand-picked songs include tracks that have only been released in Japan. It is no big secret that the Japanese are crazy for jazz vocalists (Daryl Sherman’s new album is a Japan-only release, too; review follows soon).
The three albums from which they were culled are “Moonlight Serenade” and “The Lights Still Burn” (2003) and “Songs Of Our Time” (2011) and the chosen songs are a wonderful example of inventive and imaginative repertoire. And the album starts out with the most catchy and haunting arrangement of Leon Russell‘s “This Masquerade” that I’ve ever heard. Cheryl should move more towards this direction; the cute keyboards by Corey Allen plus exotic guitars all add up to a mesmerizing rendition of this classic.
“The Lights Still Burn In Paris”, a sweet dedication to the city of lights written by Don Freeman, is another sensitive gem which features mandolin (Grant Geissman) and accordion (Van Dyke Barks, not to be confused…) on a wonderful tribute. There is more exoticism on the percussive “Land Of Make Believe”, written by the great Chuck Mangione and featuring Don Alias, and a bluesy take on “Black Coffee” where Cheryl’s perfect pitch and intonation can be enjoyed.
Cheryl’s love for Brazilian composers is shared on “If Ever”, a tune written by the great Dori Caymmi with English lyrics by Tracy Mann – a sweet ballad that floats along beautifully. And the guitar/bass-only accompaniment on the Rodgers & Hart standard “He Was Too Good To Me” suits her extremely well. Her voice here is like a warm embrace from a dear friend (Grant Geissman on guitar, Kevin Axt on bass). The Jimmy Webb poem “Shattered” gets yet another special treatment here: the svelte string quartet adds grace and suaveness to this beauty which has been recorded by Linda Ronstadt (1989) and Webb himself (with Art Garfunkel, 2013).
Manhattan Transfer fans are best served on “Blue Prelude” which features the vocals of Mark Kibble (Take 6), Roger Treece, and Dave Tull on a swinging and powerful take on this Gordon Jenkins piece. McCoy Tyner‘s “You Taught My Heart To Sing” has always been one of my favorite love songs (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) and Cheryl tells this story in her signature, direct and conversational style. Simple and straight.
There is another Dori Caymmi tune, the very lush “Love’s River” and a relaxing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, maybe too relaxed. The well-chosen compilation finishes in a late-night mood with percussion and accordion on the Gordon Jenkins ballad “Goodbye” which, instead of a fade-out, would have gained a lot more if the repetitive part towards the end had been stretched out a bit longer.