You know instinctively that an album with the title Jazz, Torch & Ancient Pop [a title that needs no explanation really] is likely to hit the proverbial sweet spot for aficionados of classic charts; the kind musicianship that keeps you riveted for close to an hour.
But nothing can really prepare you for just how sweet that spot is going to be, especially for those of us – me included – who is listening with rapt attention to these marvellous renditions of these songs by a singer with a voice as luminous as that of Michelle Berting Brett.
You may be hard-pressed to find a soloist who responds alertly and open-heartedly to this magical repertoire, which is where the greatest rewards are reaped. And any vocalist who sallies forth, singing If I Were a Bell with the kind of silvery radiance and just the kind of sauciness its composer Frank Loesser would have loved to hear it sung can really do no wrong from then on.
Indeed, this recording reveals Ms Berting Brett as a singer whose combination of vocal beauty and passionate urgency of expression [listen to her version of Skylark] provides all of the cues that she is going to make it difficult to be surpassed in the art of vocal music. She has everything it takes, it would seem, to already rank as an artist of the first order.
Her instrument is gorgeous; luminous and high-sprung. Ms Berting Brett has an instinct for phrasing, for subtle dynamics, the kind that makes for drawing your attention to key phrases in the narrative; in other words, for infusing the lyric with a very special grace. Best of all Ms Berting Brett is a rangy soprano with a gift for the long-limbed melodic line.
But she can also sometimes swoop lower morphing from soprano to warm and full-bodied mezzo, sensuous and absolutely devoid of the kind of matronliness that affects many singers with this kind of multiple-register range.
The rendition of Henry Mancini’s classic Moon River with which she closes out this outstanding performance makes a case for her elevation to the top-tier of her kind of artistry.
Of course, between the remarkable brackets of If I Were a Bell and Moon River is music of absolutely stunning vivacity, grave tenderness, music vividly suggesting this heroine’s mingled pathos and burnished vocal beauty.
Indeed, the production is all the more memorable because every performer is so completely attuned to the vocalist’s artistry. In sum, an absolutely cherished performance by a celestial artist who sings every note of every phrase as if her very life depended on it.
YouTube Playlist – Michelle Berting Brett: Jazz, Torch & Ancient Pop
Music – 1: If I Were a Bell; 2: The Lady Is a Tramp; 3: Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most; 4: Frenesi; 5: [They Long to be] Close to You; 6: Honeysuckle Rose; 7: To Sir With Love; 8: Just in Time; 9: Skylark; 10: Undun; 11: They Can’t Take That Away from Me; 12: Moon River.
Musicians – Michelle Berting Brett: vocals and percussion; Rob Thaller: piano; Drew Birston: bass; Jay Boehmer: drums and percussion; Anthony Panacci: organ.
Released – 2023
Label – Trajectory Productions
Runtime – 43:28