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Jackie Ryan: You and the Night and the Music

For a singer of Jackie Ryan’s superlative facility and appeal, four years is far too long between albums. Fortunately, Ryan’s latest, her fourth Open Art release, proves well worth the wait. Indeed, if there’s any lingering doubt, You and the Night and the Music confirms Ryan’s status as one of the outstanding jazz vocalists of her generation and, quite possibly, of all time. She is the thoroughbred vocal equivalent of the Triple Crown, rivaling the dexterous sass of Sarah Vaughan, the instinctive smarts of Carmen McRae and the scintillating verve of Diana Krall.

On previous discs, Ryan augmented sagacious selections from the Great American Songbook with her own clever compositions. This time around, she opts for an all-standards assortment. As always, her choices are as interesting as they are satisfying. Her “Let There Be Love,” one of five tracks gorgeously enriched by saxophonist Red Holloway, is as warmly inviting as Nat King Cole’s ’61 recording with George Shearing. The fire igniting the title track is as bracing as the bounce beneath both “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “I Just Found Out About Love,” and her “Wild Is the Wind,” aching with tousled desire, is arguably the finest ever recorded. Ryan ably navigates the misty dreaminess of Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s too-rarely-heard “Moonlight,” nods to the Mexican half of her heritage with a buttery “Bésame Mucho” and infuses “While We’re Young” with a fractured tenderness that is mesmerizing. But, among these 14 superb tracks, none showcases Ryan’s vocal beauty quite as enchantingly as a velvety treatment of Dave Frishberg and Johnny Mandel’s haunting “You Are There,” with only Carol Robbins’ gentle harp as backing.

Originally Published