Perfection is overrated in music. Too many jazz artists are releasing albums that feel worked over in post-production to the point that all possibility of a mistake, which is to say life, has been carefully planed away. There’s nothing sloppy or slipshod about New York City vocalist/pianist Champian Fulton and tenor saxophonist Cory Weeds’ live duo album Dream a Little…, but it practically pants with unvarnished vitality.
Fulton has set a high bar for herself since her 2007 debut Champian. In recent years she’s released a series of strong albums, each exposing a different aspect of her music. Dream a Little… might be her most pleasingly inviting. From the concise opening title track, she and Weeds establish the house rules with a conversational intimacy that bespeaks trust earned over many years and many gigs. It’s a loose session rife with quicksilver interplay. Fulton isn’t a subtle singer; she’s got an edge of brass in her voice that makes ballads, like a convincing version of “Darn That Dream,” more fulsome laments than whispered confessions. Weeds listens closely and responds in kind, often using his airy lower register as a tonal counterpoint when Fulton’s voice ascends. The album is also a showcase for her pianistic facility. She plays with such swinging joie de vivre on “Once I Had a Secret Love” that it’s easy to forget it’s not an instrumental track.
Fulton and Weeds do stumble into one all-too-common pitfall that I’m starting to feel like a broken record for pointing out. Seven of the album’s 10 tracks are standards that have been rounded up so often they’re no longer suspects. Add in two instrumentals (an original and “Tangerine”), and Andy Razaf and Eubie Blake’s underexposed gem “I’d Give a Dollar for a Dime” arrives as the penultimate track like water in the desert.
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