The Best of Venus, Volume 1
While American-in-London Stacey Kent has become the toast of Western Europe, Australian-in-New-York Nicki Parrott has earned equally strong favor throughout the Far East. Their vocal similarity is unmistakable, almost eerie, both next-generation descendants of the sun-dappled Joanie Sommers school of pop-jazz styling, Parrott distinguished by a slightly denser smokiness. Parrott is also a top-flight jazz bassist, a Rufus Reid protégée who almost always accompanies herself, and an accomplished musical-theatre actress with a long list of Broadway credits. She’s made a handful of Stateside albums, most for Florida’s Arbors label, but far more for the Japanese Venus label, including nods to Peggy Lee and to Paris, plus platters devoted to each of the four seasons.
This 14-track, all-standards compilation, the first domestic release of her offshore material, draws on nine of her 11 Venus albums. Personnel shifts slightly from track to track, with pianist John di Martino, saxophonists Harry Allen and sister Lisa Parrott, guitarist Paul Meyers and drummer Tim Horner the mainstays. The arrangements, unadventurous but lovely, are perfectly tailored to Parrott’s lithely straight-ahead readings. Her finest Venus album is 2011’s Like a Lover, Parrott paired solely with Ken Peplowski on tenor sax and clarinet. Only one track from it is included, a wonderfully loose and limber “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” that is the collection’s standout.