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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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WESLA WHITFIELD

Livin’ on Love

HighNote HCD 7152

 


1. This Can't Be Love
2. Love Is Here To Stay
3. East Of The Sun
4. Pure Imagination
5. For All We Know
6. Get Out Of Town
7. Once In A While
8. The Gentleman Is A Dope
9. Alfie
10 I'm Glad There Is You
11. Do I Hear A Waltz
12. I've Heard That Song Before
13. Whistling Away The Dark

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Wesla Whitfield – Vocals
Mike Greensill – Piano
Gary Foster – Alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute
John Wiitala - Bass
Vince Lateano - Drums.
Bill Klingelhoffer, Alicia Telford, Keith Green, Eric Achen – French horns (tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12)

In a world where many female vocalists sound homogenised and indistinguishable, it’s refreshing to hear a singer like Wesla Whitfield. I suspect that her voice is something you will either love or hate, since it is so idiosyncratic.

She has at least two disconcerting habits: holding onto a note so long that you feel it may never end, and suddenly bursting out forcibly like an operatic diva (her shout of "Alfie!" in track 9 sets you back on your heels). These tendencies probably stem from her classical training but they are part of a fine vocal technique, which is effectively brought to bear in refreshing familiar jazz standards like most of the songs on this album.

She also likes singing songs in their entirety, so that we can hear the verses of such numbers as Love is Here to Stay and For All We Know (though heaven knows why she enunciates some words in the latter with a childish lisp!). She even inserts bits of John Lennon’s Imagine into the lovely Bricusse/Newley song Pure Imagination (from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).

Pianist Mike Greensill (Wesla’s husband) writes some enterprising arrangements, adding the unusual sound of four French horns to eight tracks. Savour the contrapuntal passage he inserts behind the melody of This Can’t Be Love and the witty snatches of waltz tunes he includes in the accompaniment to Do I Hear a Waltz? And his band is pretty good, particularly multi-instrumentalist Gary Foster, whose alto-sax on East of the Sun has the clarity of Paul Desmond and whose tenor-sax on For All We Know is gloriously Getzian.

Whitfield is not an impeccable singer – her pitching occasionally goes astray and she sometimes swallows words – but she holds your attention by the intelligence and singularity of her performances.


Tony Augarde

 



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