Across three previous albums, San Francisco-based vocalist Sherri Roberts has consistently favored groups of seven or eight. This time around, she opts for a more intimate approach, traversing 14 standards in the sole company of pianist Bliss Rodriguez. The songs, says the 50-something Roberts, are touchstones, evoking memories of her musical youth: plunking out “Heart and Soul” at the family piano; learning “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and the entire Fantasticks score from a favorite camp counselor; watching Perry Como croon “It’s a Lovely Day Today” on TV; thrilling to Yul Brynner’s career-defining performance in The King and I; learning “Moon River” from Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
They were, as the title suggests, lovely days for Roberts, and her gentle reminiscing makes for a lovely hour of music. As a singer, Roberts has always delivered the straight goods: flourish-free readings that are pure, strong and potent. In Roberts, the shimmer of Doris Day is tempered by just enough Julie London smokiness to keep things interesting.
Back when Roberts was first discovering these songs, a teenaged Rodriguez was studying with Lennie Tristano and honing his craft in the company of José Feliciano, and he has since accompanied a spectrum of vocalists, including Roseanna Vitro and Laurie Antonioli. His light, assured touch recalls George Shearing, though several clever gestures, like the hint of “It’s De-Lovely” that propels “Come Dance With Me” and the soft swirls roiled beneath Dave Frishberg’s “Our Love Rolls On,” reveal his subtle imaginativeness.