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Kelly Harland: Long Ago and Far Away

Open up Kelly Harland’s Long Ago and Far Away and, hidden behind the CD itself, you’ll discover a photograph of a serene, sun-dappled path through an autumnal woods. It is a fitting metaphor for Harland’s long overdue follow-up to 2003’s Twelve Times Romance.

Six years ago, her radiant vocal perspicacity was clouded by pianist Ted Brancato’s ill-fitting arrangements, with Harland often forced to try to climb above percussionist Michael Spiro, trumpeter Jay Thomas and Brancato himself. Now, for this far gentler exploration of 10 Jerome Kern gems, she has found herself a far more simpatico pianist in Bill Mays (demonstrating as thoughtful an appreciation for standards as Keith Jarrett), a far more suitable arranger in Reed Ruddy and more appropriately subdued accompaniment shaped solely by Mays and bassist Chuck Deardorf (Harland’s husband).

Wandering into this dense Kern forest, Harland travels from the wide-open spaces of “I’m Old-Fashioned” (gorgeously accented by a cascade of fluttering leaves, courtesy of Mays) and “Look for the Silver Lining” to the misty crooks of the title track and a clever blending of “Can I Forget You” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” But the two standout tracks feature a reverential Mays guiding Harland through a hushed, circuitous “All the Things You Are,” and a sublimely pastoral “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”

Originally Published