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July/August 2003

Sir Roland Hanna
Everything I Love
IPO
Sir Roland Hanna/Carrie Smith
I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues
IPO

Hanna's full-bodied pianism is intimately captured in two CDs he recorded for a promising new label in the year before his death in November 2002.

His repertoire in the solo album Everything I Love consists mostly of standards and reflects a love of minor keys that encourage his blues leanings. To stimulating effect, in four tracks he indulges himself in a delicious succession of minor pieces: his blues "Bags," "Lullaby of the Leaves," "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." His Rachmaninoffian introduction to "I Hear a Rhapsody" is typical of Hanna's ability to integrate classical technique without lapsing into pianistic display. His "Send in the Clowns" is reflective, with no trace of the mawkishness that has nearly done the song to death. Hanna laces rollicking bass chords into another Stephen Sondheim tune, "Comedy Tonight," rarely tackled by jazz artists. "Everything I Love" builds into an evocation of Erroll Garner. Through this collection of 13 songs, Hanna entertains and enlightens with inspiration and an eclecticism that never interferes with his ability to get to the heart of the music.

Carrie Smith is often pegged, conveniently but incompletely, as a blues shouter indebted to older Smiths, Mamie and Bessie. Her range is far broader, as she demonstrates in I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues, a collection of Harold Arlen songs. Smith is Sir Roland's full partner in the collaboration. They find the profound moods and bright colors in Arlen's music-a snaky bluesiness in "Accentuate the Positive," outright joy in "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" and "I've Got the World on a String," despair in "Ill Wind" and "Stormy Weather." Smith modifies the power of her deep voice to achieve intimacy in "Let's Fall in Love" and unleashes it to wail "Blues in the Night." The delicacy and discretion in Hanna's accompaniment underline her wistfulness in "Over the Rainbow." He solos on every piece at his customary high level. Pairing these individualists was an inspired idea.

Originally published in July/August 2003
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