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Sheila Cooper: Tales of Love and Longing

There are female jazz singers of the Carmen McRae school, the Sarah Vaughan school, the Betty Carter school, the Ella school, the cool Anita O’Day-June Christy-Chris Connor school, etc. But Canadian-born, Vienna-based Sheila Cooper is the first I’ve encountered who is so obviously a graduate of the Doris Day school. At times throughout Tales of Love and Longing, the similarity to Day is downright spooky. Closer listening reveals that, where Day’s notes were strung together like cultured pearls-creamy, lustrous and perfectly round-Cooper’s are closer to the freshwater variety: smokier, more angular and less precisely uniform, yet fully as beautiful.

Cooper is further unique among her contemporaries in that she’s equally accomplished as a saxophonist. With Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer as her sole accompanist, the combination makes for 10 uniquely appealing tracks. As the pair navigates nine standards and one original (Cooper’s own, impressive “I Gravitate to You”), the mood remains soft and mellow (reminiscent of the velvety atmosphere created by Day on both 1957’s Day by Night and her 1961 union with André Previn on Duet), with Cooper alternating between hauntingly naked sax licks and languorous vocals and Pauer providing precisely the right degree of masterfully understated support.

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