Nancy Harrow: The Marble Faun

Singer-composer-lyricist Nancy Harrow continues her musical exploration of American literature, begun with her 1994 adaptation of Willa Cather’s novella, A Lost Lady, in this song cycle based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s last novel, The Marble Faun. Although billed as “Jazz Variations on a Theme By Hawthorne,” there’s minimal jazz content in the vocals (by Harrow, her son Anton Krukowski, Grady Tate, and Amy London) or in the 13-piece instrumental ensemble backing, despite the participation of pianist-arranger Sir Roland Hanna, saxophonist Frank Wess and guitarist Jack Wilkins. Although Harrow’s desire to make a fresh contribution to the stagnant jazz vocal repertoire is admirable, her undistinguished melodies, thudding rhymes (“Come down from the tower, Donatello/ You used to be such a hale fellow”) and pinched, nasal singing fail to capture the spirit of Hawthorne’s symbolic tale about artistic American innocents confronting passion and murder in Italy.