Words and Music
(Tanner Time Records)
Featured Vocalists – Tammy McCann, Paul Marinaro,
Typhanie Monique, Rose Colella, Abigail Riccards,
Kimberly Gordon, Alyssa Allgood, Elaine Dame, Jeff Meegan,
Andy Pratt, Michele Thomas, and Amy Yassinger.
Dan Murphy – Piano, Keyboards and Arrangements
Cory Biggerstaff – Bass
Neal Alger – Guitar
Andy Pratt – Guitar
Darren Scorza – Drums
Chris Madsen – Tenor Saxophone
Elaine Dame – Flute
Jeannie Tanner – Trumpet
Adam Thornburg – Trombone
HAWK String Quartet – Katherine Hughes, violin;
Carol Kalvonjian, violin; Benton Wedge, viola; and Jill Kaeden, cello.
In a way, Jeannie Tanner’s Words & Music functions on two levels. It’s certainly another terrific recorded entry from a magnificent composer and vocalist. But this album of original music is unique in that it’s also a kind of homage to Tanner’s favorite Chicago vocalists, featuring many of the city’s finest singers, each performing one or more of the compositions.
Tanner is well established in Chicago as a brilliant vocalist and trumpeter, but on this project she’s decided to cede the vocal mic to kindred singer spirits. Her compositions showcase many musical styles, ranging from gospel to straight-ahead jazz to adult contemporary. Standouts include the soulful “Be Strong,” which sounds like it could’ve been recorded with Etta James at Muscle Shoals Studios, the scrumptious minor ballad “Mr. Midnight” and a gem in the Great American Songbook mode entitled “That Word.” Rose Colella excels with her delicate Blossom Dearie evocation on the swinging “That Word,” while Jeff Meegan thrives on the smooth bossa “Wait For Me.”
The interplay between Abigail Riccards and Dan Murphy is nothing short of spellbinding on “Endless Love,” a delicate ballad originally written by Tanner for Riccards’ Every Little Star album. Tammy McCann delivers a soulful rendition of the Afro-Cuban “Reflections in Mirrors,” while Paul Marinaro evokes the great lineage of male crooners on the lovely ballad, “Remembering.” The young Alyssa Allgood belies her age and sings “Fred and Ginger” with uncanny maturity.
Kimberly Gordon also delivers a magnificent rendition of the sultry film noir-ish ballad “Mr. Midnight” with raw-nerve emotion and then showcases her effortless swing on the New Orleans-tinged “Kiss Me.” Michele Thomas demonstrates her deep roots and abilities in gospel on “Can’t Believe That It’s You,” while Elaine Dame sounds effortlessly light on her feet on the up-tempo “Come Along For The Ride.”
Typhanie Monique is dazzling on “Be Strong” with her vocal power and soul. Amy Yassinger nails the adult contemporary sound of “My Whole World Is You.” Andy Pratt, who is more known around Chicago as an ace jazz guitarist, demonstrates his folk-tinged vocals on the delicate “I’m Whistling a Tune.”
It should be noted that pianist and arranger Dan Murphy is integral to this album’s success. Aside from exhibiting his remarkable abilities as a soloist, Murphy accompanies each vocalist as if he’s been on the road with them for years. He shows his range, offering amazing accompaniment on several tracks and arranges the ensemble in a way that sounds like a full Nelson Riddle on one and a Gordon Jenkins composition on another.
All of the featured vocalists are in top form on every Tanner composition, and this album is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Dan Healy