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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Beyond the Blue




  1. Prelude to the Sun
  2. The Lamp is Low
  3. Dance with Me
  4. Chiaroscuro
  5. My Reverie
  6. En Aranjuez con tu Amor
  7. Sunrise
  8. Baubles, Bangles and Beads
  9. Beyond the Blue
  10. The Darkness of Your Eyes
  11. Noaís Dream
  12. Brand New Day

Tessa Souter (vocals): Steve Kuhn (piano); David Finck (bass); Joe Locke (vibes): Joel Frahm (saxophones): Gary Versace (accordion): Billy Drummond (drums)

Recorded March 2011, Avatar Studios, NYC [60:11]


There are certainly plenty of precedents for appropriating the classical repertoire for adaptation in other contexts, if one can put it that way. Better, perhaps, to say that pop singers have from time to time filched classical melodies, stuck words to them, and reprised them anew. But Iíve not come across a whole album of classical melodies to which lyrics have been grafted, and especially not by a Jazz singer.

Tessa Souter has written most of the lyrics. Mitchell Parish did the honours for Ravelís Pavane a good long time ago in the shape of The Lamp is Low, whilst Larry Clinton adapted Debussyís Reverie and George Forrest and Robert Wright dealt similarly with the movement from Borodinís Second Quartet. We all know that best as Baubles, Bangles and Beads.

The rest is Souterís work and the lyrics fit rather well. Souter has a classy small band to accompany her and arrangements ensure that colour and variety alike are promoted. On Prelude to the Sun Ė aka the second movement of Beethovenís Seventh Symphony Ė Joe Lockeís vibes double Souterís vocal, with more than a hint of Milt Jackson, whilst the curiously plastic toned tenor sax of Joel Frahm adds its own, not unattractive gloss. Souter gets sultry with the Ravel, adds accordion (Gary Versace) for the Borodin Polovetsian Dances and drapes Albinoniís Adagio, newly christened Chiaroscuro, in well disguised fashion.

Her lyrics for Rodrigoís evergreen Concerto are to do with loss and are evocatively romantic, whilst Frahmís tenor here proves insinuating, the accordion support evocative. Itís certainly a bold choice to co-opt Brahmsí Third Symphony Ė not sure how I really take to it Ė but the Chopin Prelude ( Beyond the Blue) is somewhat more idiomatic, and introspective. Many of these songs are reflective, slow moving and converted into ballads, so itís refreshing to come across a swinger or a light-hearted Schubert adaptation (Noaís Dream is Schubertís Serenade). Souter seems to like Gabriel Faurť and takes his Pavane as a vehicle, and so too his Elegy which she calls Brand New Day. The accordion sits well beneath the vibes, with strangely Spanish hues.

Souter brings a canny sense of warmth, introspection and, where necessary, agility to bear on these new minted numbers. Sheís not an especially personalised singer but that allows her to get beneath the skin of melodies and arrangements and to present them without idiosyncrasy; other, of course, than the obvious fact that the whole project is inherently idiosyncratic.

Jonathan Woolf

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