That Carolyn Leonhart can hold her own as a superlative vocalist is undeniable. Indeed, she demonstrated so a couple of years back on Chances Are, her sweet, gentle tribute to underappreciated composer Robert Allen, and on her hard-to-find, Japan-only release, Autumn in New York, from 2003. But Leonhart’s vocal prowess is, as has been the case on two previous albums, exponentially increased when she is paired with her equally gifted saxophonist husband, Wayne Escoffery.
The pair opens with “Better Next Time.” Not to be confused with Irving Berlin’s melancholy “Better Luck Next Time,” this familial effort (written by Escoffery and Leonhart with her brother Michael) is a thoughtful excavation of tough lessons learned. Four standards follow, including a cleverly conceived “The Sweetest Sounds” that unfolds like an interior monologue; a pensive “Never Never Land” as unhurried as a slow-passing cloud; a tranquilly gratified “Sometimes I’m Happy”; and, most ingeniously, a seemingly snowbound “You Must Believe in Spring” that, for once, appreciates how the song speaks to the promise of spring.