Michelle Lordi – Drive

Michelle Lordi "Drive"Michelle Lordi, a singer from Philadelphia has come up with a beautiful new record which was produced by pianist Orrin Evans. Here’s a singer with some very elegant and sophisticated phrasing who is not showing off everything she can. The opening song, Jay Gorney‘s “You’re My Thrill” from 1933 with lyrics by Sidney Clare, is a totally coherent version of this classic and paves the way for this uncompromisingly easygoing set.

Michelle stays wonderfully unapologetic with the Jimmy van Heusen/Sonny Burke standard “Imagination” (1940) which opens with a bass intro by Madison Rast and has a relaxed solo later in the song after which the great tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna, also from Philadelphia, has a cool and delicious solo. The vocal is really recorded upfront and comes across totally clear and without any gimmicks – it is just the right pitch and timbre and phrasing what I like most in a singer.

“True Love”, a song I never really liked that much, is done here with much verve and in a very demure way with great playing by pianist Tom Lawton and McKenna. And then there comes the moment when I’m reminded of other versions by these more or less popular songs. Even though Michelle has recorded a stripped down, very honest and down-to-earth “My Ship” with piano accompaniment by Orrin Evans only, nothing can beat Carol Sloane‘s recording of this Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin tune from her 1962 LP “Out Of The Blue” or June Christy‘s one from “Ballads For Night People” (1959). But it really is very sympathetic here.

“If I Only Had A Heart” from “The Wizard Of Oz” gets another of those typically swinging, easy but not ordinary treatments. Larry has another fine, robust solo here. Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn‘s “I Fall In Love Too Easily” (1944) is another vocal/piano duet with Orrin Evans shining with some colorful sprinklings and Michelle showing her almost vibrato-less vocal to best advantage. Nice one! The mood continues to be very relaxed with the ballad “My Ideal” written by Richard Whiting and Leo Robin.

“I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You” really reminds me of Chet Baker at the beginning- it has a similar phrasing and the silky smooth touch that Baker used to perfection. “Now At Last” by Bob Haymes and Marty Clarke keeps the soft sphere of the album which is actually a very brave thing because all ten tracks are more or less very slow and sometimes somber, but it works. The surprise comes at the very end of the disc when Michelle tackles “Drive” by The Cars (1984) and delivers a satisfying and well-rounded interpretation with some imaginative piano again from Orrin and a winning arrangement. A surprisingly graceful release from a promising singer. Very recommended!

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