The title of You're Nearer (Munich), Nancy Marano's impressive answer to 2001's fine Sure Thing, seems rather ironic. Since the release of Sure Thing, recorded in New York and L.A. for the domestic BluePort label, Marano has earned significant critical praise as well as accolades from the likes of Benny Carter, Matt Dennis, Dave Frishberg, Annie Ross, George Shearing, Johnny Mandel and Dave Brubeck. Yet despite her rising stock, she needed, thanks to the peculiar vagaries of the jazz industry, to sign on with a European label and travel all the way to Holland to record a follow-up disc.
Evincing ever-stronger echoes of Lena Horne, Marano, whose rich voice suggests dark double espresso with a drop of honey, fills the album's 12 tracks with interesting choices. Backed by a sassy Dutch sextet and working with her own arrangements, Marano travels from the cozy harbor of the Gershwins' "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and the Rodgers and Hart title track to such unexpected ports-of-call as Peggy Lee's delicate "The Shining Sea," Brubeck's shimmering "Summer Song," Johnny Mercer's dreamy film theme "Love With the Proper Stranger" and Strayhorn's appropriately titled "Bittersweet." It's a first-class musical voyage, filled with delightful surprises. It's a shame, though, that Marano had to clock so many miles before she could even start the trip.