1. How Little We Know
2. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To
3. If I Should Lose You
4. Munchhausen (Liar, Liar)
5. The Perfect Dress
6. Hymne à l'amour
7. To a Little Radio
8. Strange (Libertango)
9. On the Street Where You Live
10. Old Devil Moon
11. Mean to Me
12. Ballad of the Sad Young Men
Ruthie Culver - Vocals
Dan Hewson - Piano, Fender Rhodes (tracks
David Oliver - Piano, Fender Rhodes (tracks
Jonny Gee - Double bass
Andrea Trillo - Drums (tracks 1-4, 7-12)
Corrina Silvester - Drums, (tracks 5, 6)
Mick Foster - Soprano sax (track 3)
Roberto Pia - Timbales, congas (track 5)
Ian Marcus - Tenor sax, flute (track 5)
Fulvio Sigurta - Trumpet, flugelhorn (tracks
8, 9, 11)
I have probably already made
it clear that, in a world crammed with women
who call themselves jazz singers, newcomers
need to have something distinctive to stand
out from the crowd - not forgetting that they
also need to sing in tune.
So what is special about
Ruthie Culver? She can sing in French (Hymne
à l'amour) and German (To a
Little Radio). And she doesn't just sing
love-songs: her repertoire also includes songs
with political themes, such as sweated labour
in The Perfect Dress and anti-war in
Munchhausen (Liar, Liar). Even the
CD sleeve shows that she has environmental
concerns, as it is "made from at least 95%
recycled fibre" and "printed using vegetable
inks and water-based varnish", besides being
"recorded in Europe's first solar-powered
recording studio". All this suggests a thoughtful,
concerned person, although I could have done
without Ruthie's pretentiousness in the sleeve-note
(""I never planned to be a singer. I never
planned to develop a blooming social conscience.
I just arrived at a place where I could step
off the treadmill, tai-chi-slow").
Nonetheless I have doubts
about this debut album. Perhaps the clue to
my misgivings lies in that confession "I never
planned to be a singer". Ruthie has a small
voice which seems to lack power, and her pitching
tends to wander, especially in fast numbers.
When she departs from the melody, it sounds
as if she is temporarily lost rather than
improvising. There's no doubting her sincerity
but somehow she fails to put across the songs
with sufficient drive. And I tend to distrust
her when she (twice) changes the lyrics in
On the Street Where You Live to "near
me" (instead of "near"), this ruining the
rhyme with "appear".
She is well supported by
some fine musicians, whose proficiency sometimes
threatens to show up Ruthie's slight deficiencies.
The two saxophonists contribute admirable
solos; the two pianists provide reliable backing;
and Roberto Pia's percussion peps up The
Perfect Dress. Italian trumpeter Fulvio
Sigurta adds to the appeal of the three tracks
he is on.
The publicity describes Ruthie
Culver as a "jazz vocalist" but several numbers
here are cabaret songs rather than jazz pieces.
They are none the worse for that, but potential
buyers should know what they are getting.
They are getting an album of well-varied material,
very competently performed but featuring a
singer who cannot (at least, yet) compare
with any of the great jazz vocalists.