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Jonathan Woolf
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As Long As There Are Songs
Please Be Kind
Bei Mir Bist Du Schön
Serenade in Blue
The White Cliffs of Dover
Look For The Silver Lining
Any Place I Hang My Hat/One For My Baby
How Deep Is The Ocean?
The Man That Got Away
The Thrill Is Gone
Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
When You Wish Upon A Star
This Is All I Ask

Stephanie Blythe (vocal) Craig Terry (piano)
rec. 2012
INNOVA 875 [55:32]

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is an opera singer, and well-known for her appearances at some of the world’s most prestigious houses. She’s not the first classical singer to ply her trade in the world of popular song and she surely won’t be the last. How can she fine down those powerful operatic chops the better to project the music of Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen and Jerome Kern. I note in passing that the booklet credits the wordsmith before the tunesmith.
She is better at show-tune belters than in the more intimate corners of the repertoire. In that respect there’s a torch-song mezzo inside her, an Ethel Merman cum Kate Smith lineage at work here, two singers rightly cited in the notes. She has a searing top, unveiled in Please Be Kind, but can indeed control vibrato usage and tone in Bei Mir Bist Du Schön. She sings the second verse of The White Cliffs of Dover with a degree of thoughtful sensitivity, but it reveals what is wrong elsewhere in the song and, to a degree, in this disc - constant, often disruptive changes of tone colour and a lack of idiomatic simplicity in the storytelling. I suppose it’s unfair to judge her for what she is not, but when she takes on repertoire such as Look For The Silver Lining there should be more mobility in the voice, and the results should be less strenuous. Despite Craig Terry’s support she comes over rhythmically as a little too statuesque.
That’s not to say there aren’t good things here. She belts out Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams in true stand-and-deliver fashion, and This Is All I Ask is one of her very best interpretations in which tone colour changes are kept under control. Her rich lower register gets its meaty way around The Thrill Is Gone whilst Terry’s rich piano chording proves a devoted accomplice.
The sound quality is excellent and the notes enthusiastic, indeed somewhat larger-than-life. The recording is dated 16 December 2013, but that can’t be right - I assume 2012 is meant.
Jonathan Woolf