Stacey Kent, Art Hirahara – Songs From Other Places
Stacey’s new album finally arrived on vinyl after its initial release last fall. It’s an album which was recorded with pianist Art Hirahara and occasional flute by husband Jim Tomlinson, who also produced the album. Some of the songs have been released as singles since last summer and were recorded during lockdown.
So it is especially fitting that she opens up her album with a tune that echoes the feelings of a lot of us: “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again”. I think that’s what I said several times during conversations with my friends. Stacey sings that she’s “anxious to board a plane”, lyrics by her longtime songwriting partner Kazuo Ishiguro. There is a lot of melancholy and wanderlust on the album, like on the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic “Bonita”. We also get a piece by Canadian author and composer, performer and actor Raymond Lévesque, who learned his trade in Paris in the 50s. His “Les Voyages”, also recorded by icon Barbara in 1959, has Art playing melodica too. It really makes you want to travel to Paris and indulge in its scents and colors.
It’s all about repertoire with Stacey again. After Jobim and Lévesque, there is Paul Simon. His “American Tune” ends side one of the album. Remember the original had Bob James on keyboards and Grady Tate on drums? It is really refreshing to hear this intimate piano/voice duet and Stacey really getting down to the bone of this wonderful piece. Side two opens with another original by Jim and Kazuo. Tempo shifts a bit for “Tango In Macao” before Stacey changes to her strong version of the Lennon/McCartney classic “Blackbird” which features some brilliant playing by Art who is amazingly sensitive, forthright and poignant throughout. Really dig the overdubbed vocals towards the end.
She offers a stunning version of “My Ship”, another wonderfully executed Jobim piece, “Imagina”, where Jim can be heard on flute, and she ends with one of the most beautiful pieces written by Stevie Nicks: on “Landslide”, Stacey reinforces her powerful and truly veritable way of telling stories and directly speaking to your heart.
Stacey’s next full album release, “Summer Me, Winter Me”, originally scheduled for release in October 2020, is now planned for sometime this year. Will keep you posted!