One of the most underappreciated jazz vocalists of the past half-century, Sue Raney is also proving one of the most durable. Raney, who has been singing professionally since age 14, delivered a trio of excellent albums for Capitol while still in her teens and early 20s, then endured a peripatetic recording career that involved multiple labels and occasionally lengthy gaps (filled with teaching and jingle work—as both writer and performer). Through it all, she has never stopped plugging and, remarkably, still sounds as vibrant and clarion-pure as ever.
In recent years, Raney has formed a mutually beneficial alliance with pianist Alan Broadbent. It was Broadbent at the helm, as arranger, conductor and accompanist, on Raney’s previous album, the silken Doris Day tribute Heart’s Desire. Here it’s just Broadbent and Raney, two thoroughbreds shaping an exemplary exercise in simpatico intimacy. They open with Dave Frishberg’s tenderly introspective “Listen Here,” then keep the tempo on simmer through a spectrum of major league ballads, extending from the romantic coziness of “My Melancholy Baby” and “You’ll Never Know” to the hazy heartache of “He Was Too Good to Me” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
The pace quickens slightly for a sprightly “It Might as Well Be Spring” and a shimmering “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” But the standout piece in this sea of marvelous tracks is Raney and Broadbent’s gorgeously realized treatment, neither too maudlin nor too wistful, of Joe Raposo’s “There Used to Be a Ballpark.”