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Amy Cervini: Jazz Country

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The title of Torontonian-in-Manhattan Amy Cervini’s fourth studio album can be interpreted two ways, with equal validity. Yes, Cervini, whose alto is as crisp and pure as a Canadian winter, does traverse a cross-section of country tunes including Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and Dave Frishberg’s “Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue.” And she puts winningly countrified spins on “Blue Moon” and “Frim Fram Sauce.”

But her jazz-grounded musicality is far too fertile to remain corralled within one genre. The diverse landscape of her personal “jazz country” spans folk, pop and rock, their borders often cunningly blurred. Alongside the country tunes she offers up astute readings of countryman Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” the Canadian folk gem “Song for the Mira” and Dominique Eade’s tender “Go Gently to the Water.” She also takes Robert Telson’s haunting “Calling You” to remarkable heights, twined in escalating, aching chants with guitarist Jesse Lewis.

Though Matt Wilson produced the album, Cervini opts for a drummer-less trio with Lewis and bassist Matt Aronoff. Special guests abound. Nellie McKay provides sprightly ukulele and vocal accompaniment on the Frishberg track, Marty Ehrlich’s moaning sax intensifies the desolation of Williams’ classic, Anat Cohen’s clarinet propels “Frim Fram Sauce” and Cervini’s own “Je Danse Avec la Neige,” and Oded Lev-Ari and Gary Versace, on piano and accordion, respectively, unite to define the swirling lilt of Cervini’s “Penguin Dance.”

Originally Published