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Irene Atman: New York Rendezvous

For a change, Canada has sent a wave of WARM air south of its border in the person of Irene Atman, a comely blonde who occasionally hints at Barbra Streisand’s dramatic phrasing while aspiring to a career as jazz vocalist. Will she make it as a swinger? This is only her second recording, but it’s clear Ms Atman has the right tools for reaching her goal.

Backed intelligently and respectfully by the jazz-drenched quartet of pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Matt Wilson and, on most tracks, tenorist-soprano saxophonist Joel Frahm, Atman displays good range (“A Time For Love;”) impeccable intonation, even when accompanied by bass only, like the open and close of “Taking A Chance On Love;” a good command of dynamic shadings (“Alfie” and “Two For the Road;”) and firm time control (“Charade,” against a backing of 3-against-4.) It all comes together on her best track: “Why Did I Choose?”

There are head tones to contend with, a tendency to precede certain vowels with an aspirated “H” sound for dramatic effect, but when she shifts into Streisand-ville, unfolding that articulate instrument with its soothing vibrato and minimal need for breath, who could ask for anything more?

Atman is so right on, she encourages her backing to be rhythmically and harmonically adventurous. Kimbrough can re-harmonize at will; Anderson seldom has to walk: he’s free to make comments and fill gaps; Wilson is also able to experiment; and Frahm has a ball in his swinging bi-tonal cosmos.

Originally Published