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Sony Holland: Swing, Bossas, Ballads & Blues

According to the press materials for Sony Holland’s debut disc, “the overall effect is simply WOW!” More accurately, the overall effect is simply YAWN! It’s not that Holland doesn’t have a pleasant voice, sultry and hazy with a decent range. Nor does she fail to deliver on the album’s ambitious title. No, the trouble’s not Holland. The blame lies squarely with the album’s trio of arrangers: pianists Larry Dunlap and Art Khu and Holland’s husband, Jerry, who also serves as producer. They’ve stuck Holland in a limpid, smooth jazz groove, making all 16 tracks sound as if they were spooned from the same tub of vanilla yogurt.

Result: readings of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” that add nothing new (and, indeed, detract) from the Roberta Flack and Paul Simon originals, and pleasant and appropriately tender but otherwise insipid treatments of “My Funny Valentine,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Midnight Sun” and “Here’s That Rainy Day.” (Kudos, though, to Holland for an intoxicating “Speak Low” that solely manages to break free from the bland pack.)

As for the eight originals that fill half the album, all written by Jerry, none live up to Holland’s hyperbolic assessment of her husband as “a 21st-century Cole Porter,” instead ranging from passably interesting (“I Can’t Blame Them for Trying,” “Act Like You’re in Love With Me”) to overly derivative (“I’ll Remember Paris”) to downright awful (the cliché-ridden Vegas tale “Million Dollar Dreams”).

Originally Published