The DImming of the Day
Typically, when Broadway headliners first make the transition from stage to recording studio they stick artistically close to home, shaping a playlist of familiar show tunes. But with the sole exception of “Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known,” written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black for Tell Me on a Sunday, actress Anastasia Barzee ventures much further afield for her debut album. Apart from “Don’t Go to Strangers,” Barzee, whose crystalline soprano strongly evokes Joan Baez, focuses on selections from contemporary songwriters, including Kate Bush, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Richard Thompson, Jimmy Webb, April Smith and Rufus Wainwright.
The depth of Barzee’s dramatic skills are fully evident across playlets like “Dinner at Eight,” Wainwright’s examination of his difficult relationship with his celebrated father; “The Man With the Child in His Eyes,” Bush’s treatise on April-November relationships, here beautifully embroidered by Steve Wilson’s sax; and “American Tune,” Simon’s poignant ode to freedom and the struggle to achieve and maintain it. But equal credit for the album’s affective lure is due arranger Gil Goldstein, who also contributes on piano, Fender Rhodes and accordion. Particularly compelling are his gently countrified rendering of Newman’s “Feels Like Home”; the light bossa he floats beneath a shimmering “Summer Me, Winter Me”; his twining of Barzee and her White Christmas costar, Brian d’Arcy James, on Thompson’s profoundly romantic title track; and the playful sideshow he shapes of Smith’s homage to unhinged rationalizing, “Terrible Things.”